In case you needed an excuse to book off some holiday time, here are five scientifically-backed reasons why travelling is good for you.
Can money buy happiness? It depends what you spend it on.
The general consensus is that material things are unlikely to make you happy for long. This is because of a human tendency known by psychologists as hedonic adaptation: very quickly, we get used to our new material surroundings, and are left searching for the next dopamine hit.
However, this isn’t the case with travel. In fact, a recent study by scientists in South Korea found that travel actually reduces hedonic adaptation, making the effects of happiness last longer.
According to research by Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, travel can sustain happiness in a way that purchasing material things can’t because it’s experiential. The things you buy are external to you, so are limited in their ability to bring you joy. Travel, by being something that you experience, is part of who you are, so its impact on your wellbeing is more likely to endure over time.
There might be some truth to the old cliché that travel can help you find yourself. According to Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, a professor at the University of Southern California, engaging with new people and exposing yourself to diverse cultures can be hugely beneficial in solidifying your sense of who you are and what you believe. “Our ability to differentiate our own beliefs and values is tied up in the richness of the cultural experiences that we have had”, she says.
It’s very difficult to be stressed about work politics or your kitchen renovations while lounging on a beach in Thailand or hiking through the Swiss Alps. And according to research, the calming effects of going away last long after you’ve returned from your trip.
The reduction of stress might also have important benefits for your long-term health, reducing your risk of heart disease. The Framingham Heart Study, for example, found that those who travelled annually were less likely to develop heart disease in later life.
Research has shown that travelling to new places can actually change the structure of your brain, forging new neural pathways and stimulating creativity.
Adam Galinsky, professor at Columbia Business School, has conducted numerous studies on the relationship between creativity and international travel, and believes the two are closely linked. Speaking to The Atlantic, he explained that “foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought”, as well as “the ability to make deep connection between disparate forms”, all of which are key for creativity.
Another study, conducted on MBA students, found that those who engaged with multicultural environments by studying abroad were more able to deal with complex issues and had more success in their careers.
More broadly, travel can provide you with the space and perspective to work out where you want to be in life, as well as help grow your confidence and build your resilience.