• A Cornell study shows that the anticipation of a trip leads to longer-lasting happiness. • Planning the trip can do as much to boost your mood as the trip itself. • Traveling promotes activity that in turn produces mood-boosting endorphins. • Traveling reduces long-term stress and anxiety. • Taking annual trips helps reduce the risk of heart disease.
You don’t actually need an excuse to take a vacation. You really have earned it. However, if you’re looking for help rationalizing your fun trip, here’s some help. Vacations are good for you. They improve your health, boost your creativity and productivity, and have even been shown to increase a person’s lifespan.
Most importantly, vacations make people happy. This seems like obvious conventional wisdom that is easy to dismiss, but there is real science to back it up. If the daily grind has you a little down, planning a vacation could be just the cure you need. Here are three ways in which traveling has been scientifically proven to boost mood and overall happiness. Remember them when you book your next flights.
A few years ago, Cornell did an extensive study on this topic. It compared the mental aspects of spending money on different types of purchases and found that money spent on experiences, especially travel, had a measurable beneficial impact on mental health. Money spent on things that can be possessed didn’t create as much of a positive effect. Surprised by the distinction, the researchers looked deeper.
What they found was that the positivity of a purchase was largely tied to anticipation. The expectation of a new experience generated happiness while the effect was minimal for accumulating possessions. As researchers bolstered their findings with additional data pools, they identified that looking forward to a vacation is often the leading factor in the happiness that comes with travel. The act of planning a trip helped respondents improve their mood even if the departure date was still distant. The positive mental benefits of anticipating travel far outweighed the impact of people who anticipated purchasing material goods.
The Cornell study changed the way many researchers look at happiness, but there is older science that still supports the link between travel and happiness. When people take vacations, they tend to be physically active. Whether you plan an outdoor adventure or you’re just seeing some sights, the lack of routine makes it difficult to stay stagnant.
Combine that with the general excitement of vacation, and people find step counters hitting records when they take a trip. On top of all of that, many people feel pressured to get in better shape before a trip. Why does all of this matter? Exercise increases endorphin production. When you are on or about to take a vacation, your brain produces more endorphins, and this helps with happiness.
Anyone who has ever been stuck at an airport or in a long line for a cheesy roadside attraction is probably ready to dispute that traveling reduces stress. While many events in travel can be temporarily anxiety-inducing, the science is settled. Taking a vacation melts the deep-seated underlying stress of adulthood. According to research, three whole days after a vacation has ended, most people are still dramatically less stressed and anxious than they otherwise might typically be. Lowering stress and anxiety is a great way to boost your happiness, and your heart will appreciate the change too. Travel isn’t just making you feel better; it’s helping you live longer.
Even if you’re too swamped or unsure to pack your bags today, start planning your next trip. It will give you the initial health benefits of travel, and you’ll be more likely to follow through when you put things in motion. Your next trip is important to your well-being, so set aside any excuses. The adventures you long to have are the key to a happy and healthy life.