Why Traveling Is Good For Your Mental Health, According To Science

by Caroline Burke

By now, you've probably read a few dozen think pieces talking about how much the millennial generation loves to travel. And while some people may talk about how restless, financially reckless, or untethered this generation is in pursuing their adventures, they're not really telling the full truth. In fact, a pretty huge amount of evidence shows that traveling is good for your mental health, in addition to your physical well-being. So if you feel like booking some trips for the next year, don't let anyone stop you (except maybe your boss, I guess).

One of the most essential benefits of traveling is that it can be an amazing combatant against stress. Research from the American Psychological Association shows that frequent traveling can help you handle stress more easily in your life, primarily because it allows you to literally withdraw yourself from stressful situations and environments for a little while, giving you the time to decompress, gain some perspective, and re-center yourself. If you have an obnoxious co-worker, or you're planning a wedding and feel like you're about to lose your mind, a quick getaway from all of that stress might be just what you need.

It's not that you're not running away from your problems, so much as you're mindfully withdrawing yourself to seize the opportunity to remember what's really important.

But traveling doesn't just help you shed unnecessary stress. According to a study by Momondo, a website that helps you search for hotels and airfare information more quickly and conveniently, traveling also helps increase your empathy, meaning it can teach you how to feel more trusting, understanding, and tolerant of others. This seems to be especially relevant in 2018, when racism and bigotry move like wildfire through social media channels and occur often in real life.

According to the Momondo study, traveling made 76 percent of surveyed participants (regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, age, or education) believe that traveling gave them "a more positive view on people from the countries they have visited, other cultures in general and on differences and diversity." So not only does traveling give you a greater understanding of the cultures you visit, but it might also make you feel more empathetic and understanding of the different cultures and the types of people you see every day at home.

In addition to widening your perspective and opening your mind, traveling can actually make your brain more creative, too, which in turn can help you feel more grounded.

According to The Atlantic, traveling can quite literally change your mental health by changing the way your neural pathways connect with one another, leading to new thoughts, feelings, and ideas while you're abroad. The key to this, though, is in truly immersing yourself in a different culture, rather than simply walking through on a guided tour. And since creative activities and thoughts have been shown to combat depression, according to Everyday Health, this whole traveling thing is a total win-win. Plus, immersing yourself in a new culture is an excellent excuse to eat as many foreign dishes as you want. Prosciutto, anyone?

If improved creativity and empathy don't really convince you to book a trip ASAP, then consider the fact that traveling is said to just make you a happier person overall — it's as simple as that.

According to NBC News, traveling can make you feel significantly happier and more content with life as a whole — and it's not just about the happiness you feel while you're on your trip, but the excitement and good vibes you feel leading up to the trip, when you're planning your itinerary and anticipating the adventures ahead. The news outlet cites a Cornell University study that revealed the uptick in happiness people feel when a trip is coming up. What's more, the results of that research also showed that this anticipation and happiness is often stronger than the anticipation and happiness you feel right before you buy a physical object.

So maybe millennials are onto something after all with this whole, experiences-are-better-than-material-goods business. Who knew, right?