If there was a way you could improve your health and overall well-being (and that of your loved ones too), you would take it, right?

Well, numerous studies have found taking time off to travel not only gives us a breather from work, but also boosts our health, state of mind and overall well-being.

Those who love traveling know just how invigorating and exciting it can be. Nothing helps you rediscover yourself and enjoy the beauty of the world quite like a well planned vacation. Some of the ways exploring the world can enhance your well-being are quite intriguing, surprising even.

Here’re some interesting ways travelling boosts your health and well-being all backed by science.

1. Planning a trip itself increases your sense of happiness.

Researchers at the University of Surrey in the UK conducted a study in 2002 and found that people are happiest when they have a trip coming up. We experience a greater sense of joy and feel great about our own health, our families’ economic situation and general quality of life when we have a vacation on the horizon than people who don’t.

In fact, a more recent study in 2014 from Cornell University discovered that people get more happiness from anticipating a travel experience than from anticipating possession of something they’re going to buy or acquire. So, plan that trip. It could be the best thing you do for your well-being.

2. Traveling helps you manage stress and negative emotions.

Sometimes we just want to get as far away from a place. Travelling isn’t always about seeing new places. Sometimes it’s about escaping old ones. According to a 2013 Stress in America survey by the American Psychological Association, vacations can help manage stress and negative emotions by removing us from environments and activities that are the sources of our stress.

Wallace J. Nichols, author of “Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected and Better at What You Do” agrees and adds that travelling also helps reset our emotions. We are more compassionate with ourselves and others vacationing—especially when we escape near the water.

He explains:

“Often associated with feelings of awe and wonder, water can boost our empathy and compassion, our connection to ourselves and those we are with, and for many – from musicians like Pharrell Williams to neurologists like Oliver Sacks – it’s a steady source of creativity and insight.”

3. Traveling reduces the chance of depression.

Our modern lifestyles, characterized by constant busyness, lead to the stress, irritability and negative effects on our productivity, efficiency and well-being many of us lament. The situation is so bad that women who vacation less than once every two years are more likely to suffer from depression and stress than women who vacation at least twice a year, according to a 2005 study by the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin. Thankfully, when it comes to the benefits of travelling, stress relief tops the list.

Dr. Margaret J. King, director of the Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis, a think tank focused on the products and ideas that drive consumer decisions, explains how traveling helps relieve stress and improve our overall well-being. She writes:

“There are lots of psychological benefits from change of venue from home and work to ‘third places’ devoted to just experiencing the environment. With a short list of activities each day, freed up from the complexities of ongoing projects and relationships, the mind can reset, as does the body, with stress relief the main outcome.”

Humans thrive on novelty, she adds, and travel offers the complete package with new faces, sounds and sights. We feel happier, well-rested and more energized when we get back from a vacation.

4. Travelling enriches your experiences and understanding of the true essence of life.

Some people think that the more material possessions they accumulate, the greater their happiness will be. However, you’ll soon learn (if you haven’t already) that material goods—cars, mansions, jewelry and so on—tend to depreciate with age, and thus satisfaction with these things tends to decrease over time, whereas rewarding experiences like travelling grow richer over time as they become embellished in memory.

Even short trips can be enriching because you expose yourself to diverse cultures, traditions, passions and perspectives when you travel. Ultimately, you become a more enlightened and engaged citizen of the world. Overtime you might want to trade in your fancy car, but you won’t want to trade in a vacation because that would mean chipping away cherished memories and losing experiences and a part of yourself.

A 2010 Cornell study found this to be true: Buying travel experiences leaves you happier in the long run than buying things.

5. Traveling reduces your risk of a heart attack.

Cases of heart attack have continued to rise over the years and it’s interesting to note that scientific studies have found men who do not take a vacation for several years are 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack. Those men who go on vacation regularly are 21 percent less likely to die of such an attack, while women who go on holiday only once every six years are eight times more likely to suffer a heart attack.

As surprising as these findings may be, upon closer inspection you can see why that’s the case. Travelers tend to be more active than those who spend most of their lives sitting in an office chair all day.

Tourists can walk as much as ten miles a day, sightseeing and soaking up attractions in faraway places. Travelers are also more inclined to try new activities while on their travels, such as hiking, paddleboarding and snorkeling. These activities boost physical and mental health.

According to the World Heart Federation, moderate exercise lowers your risk of heart attack by 30% to 50%. So, yes, science agrees that you are doing yourself a big favor when you embrace travelling.

Featured photo credit: Man Walking through a City Park Wearing Hat/Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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