Enjoy the mental health benefits of a holiday

girl enjoying view while backpacking in mountains

The saying is a change is as good as a holiday, but maybe a holiday is good for our mental health.

It will be no surprise to anyone who enjoys travel that it has been proven to be good for your mental and physical health.

Here are six reasons why.

Planning pays

Apparently even planning a holiday will cheer you up. A study by Cornell University found the anticipation of an experience such as travel was a more positive experience than buying material goods.

One of their findings was that travellers enjoyed talking about their experiences much more than consumers did their purchases.

Read: Award-winning photos that will inspire you to travel

Which makes sense, because while most people can string together an interesting story from their overseas holiday, it would take a serious raconteur to interest me in how they bought a screwdriver.

Although, those people who start every sentence with “This reminds of when I was in Peru/Finland/Broome”, you can stop talking, we’ve heard enough from you.

Co-author of the Cornell study Matthew Killingsworth told nationalgeographic.com that planning a trip encourages an optimistic outlook.

“Our future-mindedness can be a source of joy if we know good things are coming, and travel is an especially good thing to have to look forward to,” he said.

It helps you stay active

Exercise and mental health have been shown to have a clear link and travel forces you to move. Even getting on to a plane can be physically challenging; we’ve all gone through an airport while miles of passageways.

But generally, with any trip there are walking tours, hiking, swimming, or even just strolling through a market or to find that little out-of-the way restaurant, all things you probably don’t do day to day. Add in the fresh air and different landscapes and bingo, the endorphins are flowing.

Read: Holiday in Europe to escape the winter blues

It relieves your stress

Changing your routine can be a circuit breaker for negative thoughts or a good distraction from stress. And what better way to change your routine than a holiday.

Also, travel opens the mind. It reveals a world of possibilities beyond your usual bubble.

It can increase your energy and productivity

Maybe this is your next holiday submission; my productivity has slumped, I need a holiday.

However, a Harvard study has found that while taking a holiday is good for decreasing stress levels and boosting productivity on return, taking a stressful holiday is just plain stressful.

“Poorly planned and stressful vacations eliminate the positive benefits of time away,” the study found.

You have been warned.

Doing good helps you feel good

There’s plenty of evidence that helping others promotes the brain activity linked with happiness, it’s why people volunteer, donate money and help little old ladies across the road.

You can actively seek a holiday with a social justice component or just be generous with your time and money at a destination that would welcome it. A $20 tip is often nothing for an international traveller, but could be a lucky break for a worker in a developing country.

Read: Top tips to keep your holiday green

Rewarding yourself

Is there somewhere you have always wanted to go, something you have always wanted to do? Everyone agrees delayed gratification has some powerful outcomes including academic success, physical health and social competence.

What better delayed gratification than finally planning and executing your dream trip, especially since travel has been out of our reach lately?

Look at this way, if it’s a holiday to Italy you have always wanted, by finally rewarding yourself with that trip, it’s a holiday and a powerful demonstration of your mental capabilities. It’s a win-win.

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Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

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