7 ways travel is scientifically proven to reduce stress

Recently updated on August 13th, 2023 at 02:48 pm

Feeling stressed? When life gets overwhelming we usually go for a nap, a bubble bath or a yoga class to help unwind and relax. But did you know that travel is one of the greatest ways to reduce stress? You probably already know that you’d feel better if you were sipping cocktails on a sunny beach somewhere, and now you’ve got the science to back you up. To celebrate Stress Awareness Day on April 16th, here are 7 evidence-backed ways that travel reduces stress.

1. It can help you stay fit and healthy

man hiking up a mountain peak

Physical activity is great for improving both our physical and mental wellbeing, and travel offers plenty of opportunities to get moving. Whether you like walking around a new city, hiking mountain trails, or swimming in the ocean, getting active outdoors is a great way to reduce stress, boost energy levels and enhance your overall wellbeing. Spending just 20 minutes in contact with nature is proven to lower stress hormone levels, while the Framingham Heart Study found that people who travelled every year were less likely to suffer a heart attack or develop heart disease.

RELATED CONTENT: All the ways you can reconnect with nature in your own backyard

2. It can help keep your mind sharp

two women smiling and cycling down a leafy street

When you travel you meet new people, discover new places, adapt to new situations, and become more socially aware. New experiences help you keep your mind sharp and improve your cognitive flexibility, which all helps you manage stress.

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that those who travel are more likely to be open and emotionally stable, while other studies have shown that travel can increase creativity, cultural and personal awareness, and introduce new ways of thinking. You can use creativity to improve your daily routine, organise your life and figure out ways to reduce stress.

3. It helps to ward off burnout

woman relaxing on the beach Hawaii

Burnout happens when we’re overworked and overstressed. One of the best ways to avoid burnout is to take regular time out to relax and recharge. And what better way to unwind than with a holiday? Whether it’s a weekend trip or a getaway to tropical shores, a holiday is an enriching act of self-care. From the excitement of planning the trip to having the freedom to rest, be present and do what you love, travel reduces stress and helps to maintain a healthy mindset.

RELATED CONTENT: Laidback lifestyle lessons the rest of the world can learn from New Zealand

4. It’s a big mood booster

two women laughing together

Who doesn’t feel good on a holiday? This study found that after just three days on holiday, the participant’s quality of sleep, mood and physical complaints had all improved. Even better, these improvements were still there five weeks later. So why does travel make us feel so good? When we go on holiday, we’re usually chasing the sunshine, and a dose of vitamin D is a big mood-booster. Leaving the stress of your everyday life behind, having the freedom to choose your schedule, and spending time with loved ones also adds to the feel-good factor.

Simply planning your trip can also make you happy. This study found that the anticipation of a trip can greatly increase your happiness – even more than the anticipation of purchasing something material like a new car or TV.

5. It can strengthen your relationships

parents holding hands with their baby

Enjoying the good times with your loved ones helps to strengthen your bonds and gives you wonderful memories to share and look back on in hard times. This study even found that women who took holidays were more satisfied with their marriages. Solo travel can be just as refreshing and fulfilling, as you draw on your independence and get to know yourself better.

Travelling also increases empathy and fights prejudice in people. A travel survey found that 76% of participants believe that travelling has given them a more positive outlook on differences, diversity and other cultures in general. And when you have a more positive outlook on the world, you’ll likely have less stress!

RELATED CONTENT: 11 ways travelling with your best friend will make your relationship stronger

6. It shakes up your routine and offers a new perspective

a couple looking out over Norway fjords

Whether you’re travelling to a new country or your neighbouring town, taking a break from your everyday routine can help break negative cycles and get you out of a stressful rut. Sometimes it’s not about seeing new places, but escaping old ones, and this survey found that holidays can help manage negative emotions by taking us out of the environments that are causing us stress.

Travel can help you to switch up your everyday life, reflect on your goals and interests, and inspire you to make changes. So if you’re feeling stressed or stuck, take a break and go somewhere out of your usual bubble. You never know what you’ll discover that may just change your life.

RELATED CONTENT: 9 perks to travelling as a group

7. It relieves stress in lasting ways

woman reading a book in a leafy courtyard

So we now know that travel reduces stress. But if you’re worried about finding the time and money for a big holiday – don’t! This study found that a four-day “long weekend” holiday helped to reduce stress and enhance wellbeing and recovery for as long as 45 days. Participants felt less anxious, better rested, and in a better mood three days after returning home, and many said they felt more relaxed weeks later even after getting back into their daily routines.

The bottom line? When you travel, you give yourself the chance to rest, relax and rejuvenate. When you’re well-rested and less stressed, you can approach your life, make decisions and manage stressful situations with a clearer head and a more positive outlook, which all contributes to improved overall wellbeing. We don’t need to be told twice… Time to start planning our next holiday!

Do you find that travel reduces stress for you? Let us know in the comments below!

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