Everyone loves a change of scene or an exciting trip away, but did you know that spending time in a new location will literally change your brain for the better?
If you’ve ever suspected that traveling doesn’t just further your personal growth but actually makes you healthier, you’ll be pleased to know that you have research on your side.
Your Brain and Traveling
According to University of Pittsburgh neuroscientist Paul Nussbaum, traveling can stimulate your brain and encourage the growth of new connections within cerebral matter. The key concept is the link between new experiences and the generation of dendrites within the brain.
Dendrites are branch-like extensions that grow from brain neurons. Their role is to facilitate the transmission of information between different regions of the brain. In brief, the greater your number of functioning dendrites, the better your brain will perform. This aids in maintaining cognitive functions such as memory and attention.
Nussbaum points out that when you travel to a new location, your brain is forced to make sense of new stimuli. This triggers the production of new dendrites. In Nussbaum’s words, your brain “literally begins to look like a jungle.”
Your trip doesn’t even have to be relaxing or go according to plan for you to enjoy the benefits. Although we would all prefer that our flights be on time, and our rental or hotel to be perfect, a degree of stress and anxiety can play a positive role in promoting dendrite growth.
This is because when we come up against an obstacle or problem, our brains are forced to process the situation at hand and devise a solution. This promotes dendritic growth, and also gives our general problem-solving abilities a boost.
Nussbaum also explains that if you cannot travel, you can still employ these basic principles to stimulate your brain. Think about how you can take steps to break free from your usual routine and encourage your brain to view life from a new perspective. Consider changing the time you wake up in the morning, the route you take to work, where you eat lunch, and the kind of reading material you usually use to pass the time on your commute.
If you are serious about stimulating your brain, take up a new hobby, or even go back to school and get a new qualification. Even if it doesn’t lead to a change of career or promotion at work, the challenge it will present to your brain make it time and money well spent.
Moreover, classes and community-based hobbies give you the chance to meet other people. Not only will this increase your motivation, but it will also allow you to rethink your existing attitudes and opinions. When we take time to talk with other people, they often surprise us with their own unique outlook on the world. Forcing your brain to make sense of someone else’s thoughts can be stimulating.
If you don’t have the time or resources to invest in a new pastime or class, consider at least making time on a regular basis to try some puzzles. Wordsearches, crosswords, logic puzzles, and number games are all excellent ways of giving your brain a workout.
So if you haven’t already booked your annual vacation yet, consider making it a priority. If you can’t get away for even a few days, at least shake up your daily routine or take up a new hobby.
Not only will you have a bank of positive memories from which to draw on more mundane days, but your brain will thank you.
|||^||Chicago Tribune: Travel as a health regimen|