The Mental Health Benefits of Travel

The Mental Health Benefits of Travel
airplane

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

Although I am retired from my psychiatric clinical and administrative work, my wife and I still consider our annual 3-week sun birding in Houston from Milwaukee a vacation. While so doing, we have discovered a variety of mental health benefits over such times: much warmer and calmer weather; seeing old friends and colleagues from our prior time living there from 1977-1989; pretending to be cowboys and cowgirls during rodeo time; and exposure to all the diverse cultures in our country’s most international city.

We know that such travel was relatively unavailable during the pandemic, but now is gratefully again for some. Although firm research studies are scant, they suggest these general mental health benefits of travel:

– near 100% feel happier just in planning future travel

– decreases undue stress during the travel, especially if not in constant contact with the workplace

– increased loving bonds with companions

– more creative thinking

– if in nature, experiencing the therapeutic benefits

– learning about other cultures

– enhancing recovery from trauma or tragedy

There are also potential psychological benefits from just treating the weekend like a vacation. This is sometimes called a staycation, and offers an opportunity to see cultural institutions nearby. What seems to help with that perspective is the increased attention that does not usually occur much in a typical weekend.

There can be psychological drawbacks to travel. Escapism in the sense of avoiding reality does not solve much. There can be unexpected stress on the trips. Nevertheless, the mindset of planning and taking a vacation at home or away is usually worth trying.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.