Got Vacation Days to Spare? Enjoy the Mental Health Benefits of Traveling
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Packing, unpacking, being on time for your flight, requesting time off work – all of these tasks seem to make traveling a stressor. However, traveling has been scientifically proven to provide many health benefits, including lowering your stress, boosting your mood, and keeping you healthier. Using your vacation days is actually good for you, so take advantage of your allotted days and plan a trip. There are some great ways to keep stress at an absolute minimum on your vacation and make the most of your days off.
Traveling improves mood and relieves stress. According to the U.S. Travel Association, of those who travel, 86 percent reported feeling satisfied with their outlook on life. Only 75 percent of those who don’t travel reported feeling satisfied. Additionally, experts found vacationing at least twice a year reduces the chances of suffering from depression and chronic stress when compared to vacationing less than once every two years. Creativity also gets a boost from travel, especially if the trip is abroad and the traveler engages in the experience.
One study found that simply planning a trip increases happiness, so the benefits start before the departure date. Also, the anticipation of a trip is significantly greater than the anticipation of acquiring a physical possession, so instead of using your extra cash to buy that new purse you’ve been eyeing, you should plan a trip. The benefits of traveling linger for weeks after the return date too. Travelers are in a better mood and feel less anxious and more rested.
The health benefits of traveling aren’t just limited to mental health. The U.S. Travel Association also found that women who vacation at least twice a year have a significantly lower risk of suffering a heart attack, and the risk of heart attack increased by 30 percent for men who didn’t take an annual vacation. Furthermore, traveling helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.
For an added furry benefit, don’t leave Fifi or Fido behind. If you are a pet owner, you can take one of your beloved family members with you on vacation. While you are exploring new scenery, you can take your four-legged friend for a walk. According to ADrugRehab.org, spending time with pets can reduce stress and alleviate anxiety. Plus, you will get a bonus of much-needed Vitamin D. Be sure to look up dog-friendly locations such as beaches, dog parks, hiking trails and campgrounds.
Keeping Stress to a Minimum Before, During, and After Your Trip
Book your flight, car rental, and hotel as far in advance as you can, and research reviews on the companies. Also, when choosing dates for the trip, consider your schedule. If your work is slammed at the end of each month, avoid booking your vacation during that time. When packing, make a checklist before you start to avoid leaving anything behind. It’s helpful to have a master list that applies to any trip so you don’t have to keep creating an entirely new list. Whether you drive or fly to your destination, leave yourself with plenty of time to spare. Arrive early to the airport, try to avoid rush hour, and don’t forget to factor in time spent off the road for bathroom breaks and food stops.
While you may want to check off every site to see and restaurant on your list, be realistic about your energy levels and time. Site seeing and fine dining are fun, but sometimes over-planning can create stress. Vacations should also involve relaxing and catching up on things you don’t have time for at home, so read a book or soak in the bath and try to avoid working on vacation.
While you may want to squeeze out every possible second away from home, avoid returning home late on a Sunday and heading back to work first thing Monday morning. You need a day at home to readjust after a trip and to catch up on laundry and grocery shopping. “Rushing back into ‘real life’ can quickly do away with all the positive, relaxing impact your vacation may have had on you,” warns momondo.
Remember that even the act of planning a trip can benefit your mental health, so if you feel those post-holiday blues setting in, start planning your next vacation. There are so many other benefits to traveling as well, such as sparking creativity and improving your physical health. If you have vacation days to spare, make the most of your time off and plan a trip.