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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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