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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 October 6, 2020

6 Signs It’s Time to Change Your Life

6 Signs It’s Time to Change Your Life

Is it time to make some changes in your life? It just might be. Life is too short to not live it to the fullest.

Here are some signs it’s time to change your life.

1. Every week, you cannot wait for Friday.

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    Fridays are fun, but one thing I’ve discovered in my quest to find and do work I absolutely love is that almost every day can be really fun. If you’re saving all your living for the weekends, it’s time to truly think about your lifestyle and consider making some changes. Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to have plans you look forward to on the weekends, but what if you could have that excited Friday feeling most, if not all, days of the week? It takes a lot of self-discovery and work, but it’s truly possible to live a life you love—even on Mondays.

    2. You live for your vacations.

    Vacations are great, but what’s even better is building a life you don’t need to take a vacation from. As Seth Godin said, “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” Vacations are fun and exciting, but even better is building a life where you have the potential to do what lights you up many weeks of the year, not just your two allotted vacation weeks.

    3. When you stop and think about it, you’re really not focusing your life on your priorities.

    Write down your 3 top priorities. Then write down the 3 things you focus most of your life on. Are you spending your time living your top priorities? Consistently spending time doing what matters most to you is one of the keys to feeling fulfilled in your life. If you’re not focusing your life on what’s important to you, it’s time to make some changes.

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    4. You have no idea what lights you up, and you don’t have the space in your life to discover it.

    If you haven’t found your passion in your current life, you’re not going to find it if you continue to do your same routine, over and over, year after year. In order to discover what lights you up, start by creating the space in your life to seek it. Give yourself time to figure out who you are, what your strengths are, and what picques your interest. Experiment with learning new things, spending time with inspiring people, and doing more of what excites you and less of the things that suck your energy.

    5. You’re frequently jealous.

    If you find yourself frequently feeling jealous of someone, there are 3 changes to consider making:

    1. Make a point to focus on your path instead of his or her journey. Sometimes this involves taking a break from social media.
    2. Get inspired from the person you’re jealous of, and work toward a similar goal in your life.
    3. Decide what the other person has is not something you are willing to put in the effort to achieve, so you’ll cheer him or her on but choose to not be jealous.

    When you are feeling jealous, consider why you want what the other person has, and what your motives are. Living a life on your terms, focused on your priorities, passions, and strengths, will provide you with much more fulfillment than trying to be somebody else.

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    6. You can’t remember the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone.

    According to Neale Donald Walsch, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Your life can become even more amazing if you stretch beyond your comfort zone. If you’re not sure where to start, try the tips in this article about small ways to step out of your comfort zone.

    Life is too short to spend your years not living to your full potential. If you decide you’re ready to change your life, I encourage you to start taking small action steps toward the life you want to live. Keep moving forward.

    Check out this video if you’re ready to make a change in life:

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    Featured photo credit: Lauren McKinnon/https://flickr.com via flickr.com

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