Properly organized trips make us happy and creative.
For many, travel is a prerequisite for a happy life.Trips not only give a feeling of happiness, but also generally have a beneficial effect on the psyche and health, according to scientists. Here are some of the conclusions from the studies.
Travel changes our personality
In 2013, German psychologists suggested that traveling abroad affects a person's personality just as much as serious events such as leaving home for parents, a first job or a romantic relationship. Character can change under the influence of the environment - and trips just give an opportunity to communicate with people who are different from their compatriots.
The researchers followed 1,134 students for a year. Almost half went to study in other countries, and the second group spent the whole year in Germany. Before the start of the experiment, all participants filled out a questionnaire, where they answered questions about how much they possess five qualities: openness to new experiences, conscientiousness, extraversion, goodwill and neuroticism.
The survey was repeated at the end of the school year and the results were compared. They differed sharply between those who left and those who stayed. The study showed that students who spent the school year in their home country became slightly less open-minded than those who went abroad. The friendliness of those who studied in Germany barely changed, but that of the travelers increased - and by the end of the observations was almost five times higher than that of the participants who stayed home. In addition, traveling to other countries made the participants of the experiment less anxious.
Researchers believe that some character traits are altered by encountering cultural differences. At first, it creates discomfort, but gradually people stop being nervous and begin to accept the new environment more favorably. You don't have to go away to study as an exchange student for a year - it's enough to communicate with foreigners and immerse yourself in a new culture when you travel.
The experience of traveling abroad makes us more benevolent not only to foreigners. American scientists found that travelers who have visited many countries generally have more trust in people. And the duration of the trip was not as important as the number of trips abroad: the more diverse the experience a person has, the easier it is to trust those around him.
Trips out of town make people happier
Interacting with nature helps us bring out our best qualities. So say psychologists from the University of Rochester.
They conducted several experiments involving 370 people. They divided them into two groups: one of them was shown photographs of landscapes and the other - brutal views of concrete buildings. Each had to imagine being in the place they saw and imagine the smells and sounds that might be there.
Participants then filled out a questionnaire that assessed how important wealth, fame, a sense of community and close relationships were to them. Those who looked at pictures of the city valued wealth and fame above all else. And those who admired the natural scenery valued relationships and a sense of community more highly. The authors of the study believe that landscapes promote self-reflection and reduce the pressure of society's values that alienate people from one another.
Not surprisingly, getting out in nature makes people happier. For example, researchers surveyed tourists who visited national parks in Australia. 82% of them said they felt better after these trips. More than half of them said that visiting the parks helped them reduce their stress levels.
The tourism industry takes advantage of outdoor recreation by offering "adventure tours" - usually involving activities like mountain climbing, rafting on mountain rivers or snowmobiling. But researchers believe that just as good for the psyche can be peaceful recreational activities, without such vivid experiences. A long stay in nature and a break from the pace of city life will already provide good mental well-being. You'll feel better if you go on a multi-day camping trip where you cook food, pitch tents and tell stories by the fire.
If you can't go out of town for a few days, you can also benefit from regular walks in the woods. This was discovered by scientists who studied the practice of shinrin-yoku - relaxing walks in the woods, which are popular in Japan. During them, it is recommended to turn off cell phones, walk in silence, completely dissolving in the forest landscape. According to the Japanese, such walks help relieve stress caused by life in a frantic city rhythm, recover and reboot. Scientists agree: a review of 64 studies has shown that shinrin yoku really does relieve stress and anxiety, and people walking in forests and parks begin to feel happier.
Travel makes people healthier
Traveling is quite a challenge for the brain. You find yourself in an unfamiliar environment, especially if you come to a country where the culture is very different from yours. The brain gets a lot of new information to process, and as a result new dendrites, neuronal spurs that allow the brain to process more data, are created.
The same mechanism is triggered when a person is faced with any complex task or unfamiliar activity: learning a foreign language, mastering a new hobby or looking for directions in an unknown place. If one constantly challenges oneself like this throughout life, one can keep a healthy brain longer - this kind of experience is considered a good prevention of dementia.
Brain health is not the only thing that improves through travel. For example, Chinese scientists found that travelers are less susceptible to fatal diseases than homebodies. And it's not necessarily about vacations at expensive resorts - short trips to relatives also count.
Researchers analyzed data from a national health survey of the elderly - aged 65 and older - who were asked, among other things, how often they traveled outside their city or abroad. There were few elderly travelers in China: Only 7.85% of the more than nine thousand people surveyed had traveled somewhere at least once in the past two years. However, their risk of mortality was 27% lower than that of those who haven't left their city in a long time. The authors of the work believe that travel can influence life expectancy, as they provide physical activity and improve the psychological state of the elderly.
Another group of Chinese researchers came to similar conclusions. In their study, they note that tourism may be one component of the concept of "healthy aging" - in which older people, while maintaining good health, remain active members of society.
Of course, it's not just retirees who benefit from travel. A review of 29 studies showed that a change of scenery also affects the well-being of students and working people: for example, respondents reported that after a trip they felt healthier and more energetic, slept better, and their stress levels decreased.
And even virtual excursions turned out to be useful. Canadian researchers followed 18 residents of houses for the elderly for a month and a half - they were from 71 to 96 years. Three times a week the participants of the experiment went on a trip with the help of headphones and virtual reality glasses. After completing the study, they reported that their quality of life improved significantly, with reduced fatigue and anxiety. In addition, there was an increase in social activity: according to the participants, virtual tourism provided them with an excuse to socialize with friends and family.
Travel develops creativity
Travel to other countries has a positive effect on creativity. For 11 years, scientists collected data on the creative heads of the largest fashion houses: their biography, level of education, age, and also counted how much time they spent on foreign trips. In addition, the researchers asked industry experts to rate the creativity of each collection on a 20-point scale.
It turned out that people considered more creative executives with foreign professional experience. This partly explains the success of Karl Lagerfeld, the authors believe. The fashion designer was born in Germany and worked in France and Italy, often traveling between the two countries. Lagerfeld used the cultural characteristics of these countries in his collections, thanks to which he left a mark on the entire global fashion industry.
Multicultural experiences in general are great for stimulating cognitive abilities, including creativity, scientists believe. To test their hypothesis, they conducted a small experiment with 102 international students at a university in Malaysia. First, the researchers found out how open the students were to new experiences, and then they questioned the participants about their experiences with different cultures: Malaysians, immigrants, and other international students. Participants were then challenged to attach a wax candle to the wall so that when it burned, the wax would not drip onto the floor. Students were given only the candle, matches, and a box of paper clips.
Only 31% of those who participated in the experiment guessed that they should empty the buttons from the box, put a candle in it, pin the box with the buttons to the wall and light the fire. And it turned out that those students who were most open to new experiences and traveled more than others used the box as a candle holder.
Researchers believe that the experience of living in other countries, combined with openness, help to look at the problem from a different angle. And, as a result, find a solution that wouldn't occur to others.
Planning a trip improves your mood
Even if your next vacation isn't soon, start planning it early. Anticipating a future trip will make you feel more joyful and happy.
In 2010, researchers from the Netherlands conducted a survey of 1,530 people, more than half of whom went on vacation. Five times at intervals of several weeks, the study participants were asked the same questions: whether they are now enjoying life, whether they are feeling depressed and apathetic. And for those who went on a trip, they were also asked how long it lasted and how it went.
It turned out that vacationers' level of life satisfaction skyrocketed before the trip. Researchers attributed this to the fact that at that moment people had a stronger anticipation of the future trip - and more often thought about it. This had a positive effect on their mood.
If you can not plan a long trip so far, psychologists advise to take a mini-vacation for a couple of days. For example, you can go to a nearby town for a weekend. Even such a short trip will provide new experiences, will rest and gain strength.