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Travelling: passport to mental well-being
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Travelling: passport to mental well-being

Escaping from one’s routine to seek out new experiences can have multiple benefits
travel, wellbeing, novelty, routine, wellness, mental health
Representational image | Canva

There is something so appealing about the idea of escaping the grind, experiencing new sensations, and momentarily immersing ourselves in a new life. In some ways, our homes keep us tethered to one version of ourselves. But, travelling awakens the possibility that maybe, we can be somebody else altogether.  Delving into uncharted territories can have numerous positive effects on one’s mental well-being, in addition to providing nourishment for the soul.

Benefits of travelling

In a conversation with Happiest Health, Mitesh Jain, founder & chief travel psychologist at Mandeha, a mental health organisation that focuses on travel psychology in Maharashtra, says that discovering new destinations, trying new cuisines, and making new friends can lift our spirits and enhance our sense of happiness.

Travel is also a way to experience a plethora of positive emotions which can have a long-lasting effect on our mental well-being.  According to Jain, travelling builds self-confidence and resilience by challenging us to venture beyond our comfort zones. Additionally, he highlights that embarking on a journey to a well-known tourist spot or going on a solo adventure can instil a sense of achievement within oneself.

Breaking free from the mundane

While routines can provide structure and stability, it is natural to feel the desire to evade them at times. According to Jain, breaking routines can lower tension and boost positive emotions like happiness and contentment. “Trying new things or developing new interests can make us feel accomplished and satisfied,” he says. Researchers Bagheri and Milyavskaya’s 2020 research suggests that a reduction in well-being may result from a lack of novel experiences. They assert that humans require novelty to function psychologically, and it is crucial for achieving life satisfaction and fulfillment. Psychological growth, well-being, and optimal functioning are dependent on the acquisition of new experiences.

A way to social connectedness

Surbhi Chanana, travel and lifestyle content creator from Delhi, fondly recalls one of her experiences while traveling to Mauritius, three years ago. Despite being in an unfamiliar culture where she did not understand the language, she experienced a deep social connection when engaging in Sebu, a rhythmic folk dance of African origin.

“We did not understand their music or language, but they taught us their dance moves, and before we knew it, we were all dancing together,” she says.

“On travel journeys, we often engage with people from various cultures and backgrounds, which can strengthen our social relationships and provide opportunities for meaningful connections,” says Jain. These connections can be valuable especially for people who may feel isolated or disconnected in their everyday lives.

Fostering connections with group travel

Nihar Nair, 30, Mumbai, co-founder of Vagabond Experiences and a seasoned traveller who has organised over sixty trips across various regions of India, believes traveling solo or with a group can help enhance one’s overall travel experience by allowing for shared experiences and the chance to form new connections and friendships.

Looking back to his college days, Nair says that it did not really matter where they were travelling to. “The shared experience of being and experiencing new things together is what made us realise that this is the best way to forge bonds,” he adds.

The sweet taste of novelty

Jain says that our minds are wired to constantly seek novelty and stimulation. Getting stuck in a rut can make us feel uninspired, unfulfilled, and even stagnant. By straying from the norm, we expose our brains to fresh encounters and challenges that can foster mental and emotional development.

New places offer distinct experiences that engage our senses with unique sights, sounds, and sensations.

Moreover, Nair believes that interacting with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds can promote empathy and sensitivity. Being open-minded and empathetic when encountering someone with a different perspective can create a welcoming environment despite the differences.

Creativity and new ways of thinking

While experiencing novelty is thrilling, it also opens avenues for new ways of thinking and feeling, which in turn enhances creativity.

Jain says that travel can enhance creativity and cognitive abilities. Exposure to different cultures and ways of thinking can broaden our perspective and nourish our imagination, resulting in innovative concepts and solutions.

“Travelling involves a process of choosing a destination, meticulous planning and figuring out the finer details of the journey. This process can help with decision making, which is a cognitive process,” says Lalpeki Ralte, counselling psychologist, Bengaluru.

Indulge in slow travel

Another concept piquing interest among travellers is that of ‘slow travel’.  Nair says this concept enhances the meaningfulness of his journeys. “I prefer slow travel because itineraries are not packed to the brim, public transport is taken wherever possible and most of the exploration is done on foot,” he says.

According to research by Allison Caffyn, researcher and tourism consultant in the United Kingdom, slow travel is seeking fewer, more meaningful experiences rather than trying to ‘tick off’ a huge to-do list.

The research also indicates that with a slower pace, visitors have the chance to immerse themselves in the culture, heritage, traditions of the place.

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