by Alek Sabin
Poor mental health, sadly, is far too often an issue that many people leave unaddressed, or go about fixing in the wrong way. Every person has different ways that they deal with a troubled mind, as in the things that they do everyday to cope with any sort of mental health issues. However, sometimes it can be good to get away for a while so that you can get out of your own head and get a break from your usual environment.
For this reason, traveling is often a recommended thing to do after someone goes through a particularly trying chapter in their life, such as the loss of a loved one or dealing with something like addiction. Here are some ways that travel has a positive impact on your mental health…
Get out of troubling environments
A person’s mental health is impacted by two major things: that person’s genetics and that person’s environment. While an individual’s genetic predisposition to mental health problems isn’t something they can change, our environment is something that is within our control; something that we can actively affect.
Taking a break to travel around, whether it is for a weekend or you will be gone for months, gives us a break from that environment and, in a way, renews us for the challenges that we might face when we come back. This doesn’t even necessarily mean that an environment is bad, but stepping outside of what we know, in our day to day lives, gives us a broader perspective of our environment when we return.
Learn more about yourself
Sometimes, when we are caught up in the daily grind of obligations, we begin to think of ourselves more as a function, rather than as a whole individual. Every day, who we are is wrapped up in what we must do: go to work, run this errand, make an appearance here, etc. The great thing about traveling is that you have an opportunity to know yourself beyond your function. When you go somewhere that you are unfamiliar with, and you have the sole discretion of what you can do in this new place, it lets you get to know yourself and what you appreciate, a lot better.
Builds empathy with other people
Lots of people spend their lives within the same community, or geographic area, without exploring much outside of that. To some degree, this is swell. It’s great to have strong roots and an unmistakable place to call home. However, it can get easy to get lost in a bubble, and to think of everyone outside of that bubble as a dissident “other.”
What traveling enables us to do is meet new people, who have their own completely different roots, different culture, but still exist within a place that is unmistakably their home. In this way, traveling builds empathy within us. This is an important process is building a strong foundation for mental health. Our sociability is often wrapped up in empathy, and empathy is what allows us to seek help and build a support system, when we need it.
Travel can add stress, as well
It’s important to say that traveling can add a significant amount of stress, as well. If you don’t allow traveling to be therapeutic, then it will be quite the opposite. When we travel, we have to do with a combination of logistics about where to stay, what to see, worrying about tickets and visas, and managing our traveling expenses (since traveling can get very expensive, very quickly).
None of these things are problems that we would want to throw on our plates, on any given day. However, the benefits of travel can make these stresses seem small, in comparison. The trick is that you have to allow yourself to relax and not get caught up in the little things. Getting too attached to your itinerary, or being stressed that you won’t have all the time you need to do what you want to do, is exactly the type of thing that is going to make traveling less of an adventure and more of a hassle. Just relax, wind down, and put one good foot in front of the other.