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Why Travel Is So Good For Your Brain

Why Travel Is So Good For Your Brain

Travel has long been associated with wellness at virtually every age: it breaks up routines, pushes the reset button on our lives, and we encounter new places, people, and things.  When young, we think of summer camp or family vacations. For high school and college agers, we think of gap year travel or “study abroad” programs. In adulthood, we think of travel as a way to relax, easing the stresses and strains of our hectic work and family lives.

During midlife and older years, travel takes on a whole new importance. More than a third of all leisure travelers in the US are over 55, according to AARP, and half of all money spent each year on travel is by this age group. Because lifestyle enrichment plays a critical role in maintaining brain resiliency as we age, high levels of travel among older people can be great for our brain health. How a person lives each day can make a huge difference in keeping brains healthy, even influencing the delay or prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

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This new concept in wellness travel is emerging to improve not only the health of our body, but also our brain. The Global Coalition on Aging, in collaboration with the U.S. Travel Association, has released studies highlighting a clear connection between travel and wellbeing. The complexities of travel are shown to sharpen travelers’ brains as well as protect them from heart disease. The Framingham Heart Study cites numerous findings linking health and travel, including one that found women ages 45 to 64 who vacationed at least twice a year had a significantly lower risk for developing heart attacks or coronary death, compared with woman vacationing every six years or less.

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By its very nature, travel encourages people to be active, make new friends, explore, and set time aside for both play and restoration. Travel has the potential to ‘light up the brain’ across a diverse range of neural pathways, leading to many health and cognitive benefits.  For example, travel kick-starts a brain that has become mired in everyday routines. As people move into adulthood and retirement years, they gravitate toward routine activities and often avoid new experiences. In their quest to be more comfortable, they can deny themselves the joys and frustrations of facing challenges. We can fall into the trap of habituating ourselves to familiar tasks at work and at home with less time spent on exploration and play. In contrast, children and young adults tend to spend a lot of time in playful activities with friends, and a lot of time exploring, at school and elsewhere. Brains adhere to the “use it or lose it” rule, meaning pathways people use the most are strengthened, while sadly, those that are neglected become weak.

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Turn your next trip into powerful and long lasting brain‐boosting experiences with these four tips:

  1. Find and choose joyous experiences
  2. Be curious – seek out the new and different
  3. Care for others – whether its your own family or those you meet
  4. Play, rest, reflect on life – take time to restore your inner reserves

Based on the discovery of neuroplasticity, we know brains continue to grow and change throughout life. This means it’s never too late to learn new skills and benefit from a balanced menu of healthy activities. Travel is a wonderful way to take advantage of this gift by engaging in a variety of experiences that activate vital brain networks to keep brains healthy for a lifetime.

Stay tuned for our upcoming travel series;

How Travel “Lights Up Your Brain”

  1. Vacations really can add years to brain health and longevity!
  2. Turning art, music and architecture into brain boosters
  3. Why even trying to speak a foreign language is good for your brain
  4. How new experiences and learning about the world work magic on your brain
  5. Meaningful connections on the road can change your life and rewire your brain
  6. What does cultural immersion have to do with vitality and longevity?
  7. Why travel plans that go wrong can be good for your brain, but luxury may not be!

Featured photo credit: World In Your Hands Concept Map – Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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