The word stagnation almost always has negative connotations and for good reason. Staying in the same place, whether it is professionally, personally, or literally, is rarely a positive thing. Let’s take it literally, for a moment. Going to and from work, eating at the same rotation of restaurants, and generally not engaging in new sights, sounds, and experiences is not good for us. We know this because we know that travel has mental health benefits, and traveling to new places is the opposite of keeping yourself stuck in the same monotonous routine.
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The Danger of Routine
The health boosts that we see from traveling must first be prefaced by the dangers we face when we do not break routine. Six Figures Under explains the difference between powerful routine and dangerous routine. Dangerous routines waste time, and one prime example they pose is sitting around and watching TV mindlessly. Ron Edmondson adds that these mundane routines have many negative effects which pertain to mental health; boredom stifled creativity and feeling unchallenged, which can lead to personal dissatisfaction. All of this is likely to diminish self-worth and lead to feelings of depression.
These non-stimulating, time-wasting routines must be broken, and the best way to do that is through travel. With most employers offering a fair to generous amount of travel days, we must take advantage if we are going to preserve good mental health.
Potential Pitfalls of Traveling
It’s true that traveling has many benefits to our mental health. That said, we have to be realistic about the stress that travel can also impose on us. The CDC recommends consulting your physician before taking a trip, especially if you have a history of psychological problems and/or addiction. With this in mind, those who are cleared to travel – especially those in addiction recovery – could find great benefit in traveling. The time for self-reflection, healing, and the feeling of self-efficacy that will arise after completing a sober vacation are all powerful.
However, those who are unsure how comfortable they will be socializing without substances may want to consider bringing a dog as a companion. This constant companion can keep you away from bars yet not feeling lonely and therefore the need to fall back into bad habits.
The Mental Health Benefits of Jet-Setting and Road-Tripping
Orbitz offers an illuminating quote from psychologist Dr. Jennifer Gentile that sums up the benefits of travel quite well. “It can be easy to get stuck in our own patterns and grow bored of our daily routines, but travel can provide a much needed break and lead to invaluable personal growth and development,” she says. They add that travel often forces us to use different parts of our brain as we experience new things and take on new challenges, such as attempting to learn a language.
Her Women’s Health brings up some ways to maximize the benefits of travel, which can include increased creativity, relaxation, while also decreasing stress. They suggest not attempting to cram too many activities into the trip, planning ahead, and making sure your iPod has plenty of calming tunes on it. With these tips in mind, you are well on your way to reaping the health benefits that come from time off from work in the form of a well-deserved vacation.
Take a trip. You know you want to. Stop making excuses not to travel, stop hoarding those travel days, and book a flight to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Whatever work that needs to be done won’t be going anywhere, and when you get back you will be even better equipped to take that work on with a fresh mind and new perspective.