I am someone who constantly battles with anxiety. Anxiety is something that can easily eat you alive and you won’t even realize how far you have gone until you realize how far you have come. It takes practice to learn to enjoy yourself without thinking about what could have been or what should have been and anxiety can make you feel like there is something wrong when usually, there isn’t. Most of the time, it can flare up because of the way that I’m living. So when I noticed that traveling has worked wonders for my anxiety and overall mental health, that’s when I knew I wanted to make a change.
I have been looking for a simple fix (as if there was something to fix), but to be honest, there was not. At the beginning of 2018, I was looking for a change, not the type of change like working out or waking up earlier, but a change of environment. I knew that this change was something that I not only desired but desperately needed. I wanted to learn something that would help me to appreciate myself and my own environment more. For me, the change that I needed was to travel. This past June, I decided to make a trip to Cuba. I met many people that seemed to be lacking in a lot of the material possessions that we as Americans seem to covet, yet they seemed so happy. New York is known to have its own agenda with everyone set on making it to “the top,” where sometimes, we rarely take a moment to appreciate not even half of what we have; for if we did, pure joy would be dripping down to our very souls.
Traveling gave me a new perspective on life and just how more appreciative I should be instead of complaining and taking it all for granted. I am definitely not saying working hard to get what you want out of life should not be a priority, it should; however, enjoying the simple things should be as well. That is what I call “balance.”
When I was in Cuba, I ate great food, met new people, and enjoyed it all, anxiety free! I felt as if I was living the life of Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love but with a newfound understanding. Learning new things and being around new minds and energy can really allow you to grow and develop into someone you didn’t even know you had the potential to be.
I plan on traveling more because it has truly changed my perspective on how I see life. It has taught me not to be so hard on myself, which essentially, helps me with my anxiety. Realizing that sometimes it’s okay to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life, and it may actually be necessary for your mental health.
If my story didn’t inspire you to drop everything that you’re doing to book a trip, see below for scientific reasons how travel can help with your mental health.
It Can Boost Your Mood
Experiencing new places and people can increase serotonin in your brain, which can rewire it to make you feel happier and give you a self-confidence boost. Even just the anticipation for a trip can make you view things from a more positive perspective. According to a Cornell University Study, you’re more inclined to feel a more positive experience while waiting for a trip than waiting to acquire a tangible thing, such as clothes or a car.
It Can Improve Your Creative Side
If you ever feel like you’re in a rut and have the means to take a quick trip somewhere, do it. Traveling is known to increase your creativity and help you see things from a new perspective. According to Psychology Today, Jean Kim M.D. said, “the cognitive flexibility helps stimulate neuroplasticity,” aka being in an unfamiliar place helps you become comfortable with the uncomfortable, which allows your brain to generate new thoughts and ideas from these new experiences. This effect lasts way after your trip, too, and can influence your everyday work and personal life.
It Can Make You More Empathic
Being with others in their hometown allows you to connect with them on a whole new level. You’re able to see how people live, eat, and enjoy their lives that are outside of your own home, which will not only open your eyes, but allow you to empathize with others who don’t live the same life as you.
According to a study that was conducted by travel website, Momondo, traveling makes you more trusting and open-minded to others. It states, “the findings suggest that traveling can be a weapon in fighting and minimizing our own prejudice and narrow-mindedness. When we travel, we meet new people, try new things, and experience new cultures. By leaving our comfort zone and [leaping] into unknown territory, traveling gives us new experiences and perspectives and makes us open-minded.” If that doesn’t make you want to book a trip, then I don’t know what will.
Feature image via Micaéla Verrelien