Research sociologists and psychologists have in the last few years started to ask ‘what makes us happy?’ Oddly, it’s an area that has not always been our main focus, getting served as a side-dish in other studies. But now that we have started to move away from notions of ‘The One’ fulfilling us and started listening to the research results indicating it is friends and community that make people happy (an area which pop-culture got right first; think of the bromance and ‘friends are your family’ genres), happiness is now being scaled by index.
After taking a holiday break, employees have been found to be more productive, happier, alert and refreshed. However, psychologists have found that the health benefits of traveling are short-lived, fading after two weeks. But psychologists suggest that is still better to take a break from work than not. A good reason to prompt the boss for more than an annual vacation.
Some of the benefits of travel are:
1. Negative Ions
Getting back to nature and away from industrial-strength fumes and white noise soothes the nerves. Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is real, it is recognised by the WHO, and can affect domestic housing and office buildings. SBS is estimated to affect 30 % of buildings and to be rising, as unfortunately it is not a consideration in the design and manufacture of new docimiles and high-rises. Over the past few years, scientists have discovered that springs, waterfalls, sea waves, forests and gardens contain high amounts of negative ions. Negative ions have been shown to reduce bacteria in the air and kill free radicals. Holidaying in the bush or on the beach will put you into contact with excellent air quality.
2. A change is as good as a rest
A variation in your daily routine and scenery has the same effect as a good lie-in. Stimulating your brain by providing a new visual climate for it to process, a new routine or no routine at all, trying new food and language, will all tap parts of your brain that are in retirement when you are the office automaton. New neural connections will be laid down in your brain. In other words, you get smarter.
3. You’ll think laterally
Being placed in a situation that you do not know kicks in your survival instincts. One of the biggest factors in survival is creativity. It’s why the smaller Homo Sapiens beat the Nanderthals . It’s also why musicians get laid. Musicians demonstrate creativity and improvisation skills, traits mates look for. You may have to settle for learning a new PT system and figuring out how to find your hotel in the dark, but you’ll find yourself thinking outside of the box as you stretch your problem-solving abilities.
4. You’ll improve your diet
When travelling you may well find yourself hungry. Getting hungry is good. You’ll be less fussy about what you eat, try new foodstuffs, and notice when you are full. You’ll also be running round exploring, going on excursions, and organising itineraries. Less calories in, more calories out.
5. Buddy up
Travelling is very inclusive, fantastic for both the solo explorer and the coupled-up. One of the factors of dissatisfaction in long-term partnerships is the loss of romance. Feelings of romance; the butterflies, sweating, increased heart rate etc, have been linked to induced by fear. By trying new experiences together such as bungee jumping, scuba-diving etc, you can recreate these feelings. Seeing a partner under new circumstances will also show them in a new light, as they call on parts of themselves you haven’t had the chance to get to know.
Conversely, the solo traveller has the freedom to interact with virtually anyone they meet while on the road and represent themselves as they wish to be seen. This liberation can be a chance to bring out a side that may be stifled around those that know you and have certain expectations of you. It also applies to getting home. Holding onto that new image of yourself can give you the confidence to show it to your friends on your return.
6. You can knock one off the bucket list
Not many people regret travel. You create new memories, and if you feel unfulfilled in one aspect of your life, gaining control in another can boost your self-esteem. Running away is also not the crime people make it out to be, unless you are running away because you have committed a crime. Dwelling in a bad situation or being constantly reminded of a bad memory can slow the healing process. A change to a place that matches the mood you want to achieve, ie, sun, sand and peace, can be the best remedial therapy you choose. A lot of people working in the West now don’t even consider travel an optional extra, it’s become a necessity.
7. You’ll lose control- in a good way
Going to a country or place where you encounter trying situations out of your control can remind you that patience is a virtue. One of the seven habits of highly effective people is to not lose sleep over things that annoy or disturb you, if you have no influence over them. With a maniacal emphasis on personal responsibility in the West, a misnomer that has arisen due to thinking societal wealth means individual choice, we often forget the principal of stoicism; that is, external problems are to be weathered as a reminder that if something breaks it’s because the nature of the object meant it could be broken. The trick is to maintain a core of self that is not affected by these external events. Likewise, coming face-to-face with cultural differences in the people you meet will force you to remove bigotry and find commonality, rather than trying to control others.
Written by Rebecca Miller