Is travel good for your mental health?

While traveling can be challenging for someone with a mental illness, it can also improve your life. In this personal story from Juliette Burton with key points backed by research, we explore how a person’s mental health issues can be improved by exploring the world.

Here I am, on a plane, about to embark on my first solo vacation abroad for pleasure. I have only been abroad for work, not for pleasure. But until now I had only gone on vacation with my partner or friends.

And because of my mental illnesses, there was a time when I thought I would never do this.

Longing to explore

When I was in the hospital, I stared at the same four walls for days, weeks, and months. I was not encouraged to explore or make much decision about my own life, for my own safety. I was considered a danger to myself when I was committed under the mental health law years ago.

Although some mental illnesses are associated with impulsivity and recklessnessThere is also evidence that It can promote recovery from mental illness. by taking positive risks. In fact, a Lack of independence can increase symptoms of depression..

Of course I needed to reach a certain level of recovery before traveling, much less alone. Time, preparation and strong support help someone like me enjoy the benefits that traveling can bring.

travel psychiatry

The relatively new term ‘travel psychiatry’ expresses how someone with a mental illness may find traveling abroad a challenging and positive experience. Whether this is a challenge or a positive experience apparently depends on both the individual and their healthcare professional having a solid understanding of how travel can affect their illness and how their illness can affect their travel.

For some, traveling can also trigger the first symptoms of mental illness or reveal underlying, as yet undiagnosed, mental illnesses. Maybe mental health problems Could it receive more recognition in travel medicine?

Autonomy of choice

Traveling is my choice. Where to travel, what to eat, where to stay, what to do, it’s all up to me. And since I started traveling alone, alone and without anyone to make decisions with, it really all depends on me.

There is Many ways mental illness can disrupt a person’s autonomy or the ability to make your own empowered life decisions. In recent years, Psychotherapy has been oriented toward strengthening authenticity, competence, and self-confidence. to help someone with a mental illness live a meaningful and fulfilling life even if their symptoms do not improve.

None of my mental illnesses or the experiences that followed because of them were empowering. It was not my choice to develop clinical depression or anxiety disorders, eating disorders, CPTSD, or be subjected to mental health law. It was not my choice to experience hallucinations or suicidal ideation. It is certainly not my choice to experience stigma. And it was not my choice to experience the risk factors in my youth that made me more likely to develop mental illness.

And yet, here I am, choosing to venture out into the world on my own, in a new place with new people and new sights, sounds and culture. Traveling gives me new opportunities to experience myself again, with new eyes.

How to have the best rest

A truly relaxing and healthy holiday has a number of key ingredients: having free time, warmer and sunnier places, being physically active, sleeping well, making new friends. They all contribute to enhancing the health benefits of a vacation.. Choosing a place with a small time difference and avoiding illnesses during the holidays also prevents post-vacation exhaustion.

And a vacation that lasts more than a week is the biggest benefit for well-being. Christmas satisfaction improves rapidly when traveling, reaching maximum happiness on the eighth day. However, a week after returning to work, health and well-being levels decline and return to approximately where they were before the break.

Disadvantages of traveling: Lonely Planet?

One possible concern some people might have about someone whose depression persists is loneliness. Isolation is related to mental disorders in people who have experienced a mental health crisis. However, loneliness is tied to the way we live life more than how many friends you have or whether you live alone or with other people. By addressing loneliness, recovery from mental illness improves.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, every time I travel alone, I feel more connected not only to others but also to myself.

Kindness of strangers

When exploring a new place, I rely heavily on the kindness of strangers. This may seem naive, but my intuition kicks in and I learn to trust it. Not only do I trust myself more, but I trust in the power of kindness.

The kindness of those around me has a huge effect on my outlook and well-being wherever I am. In a 2020 survey, 63% of UK adults said their mental health improved thanks to kindness shown towards them and being kind to others. In fact, being type can benefit our mental health and prevent physical illnesses. This could be partly because kindness is a Key way to reduce stress..

When I’m in a strange city or country, a kind smile or friendly conversation makes me feel even more comforting.

Self-sufficiency and self-care

Learning to take care of myself, at home or anywhere else, has been a challenge throughout my life. My mental illnesses have led me to dissociate from my needs, using less healthy coping mechanisms to deal with my overwhelming thoughts and feelings.

But when I travel, the feeling of peace comes from being alone. I’m not too much anymore. I am distracted but connected to who I am, my essential needs. Trusting myself isn’t easy either because of my mental health experiences. Once you are told that the way you see the world or that you yourself are “mentally ill” or not sane, how can you trust yourself?

Self-love, according to research, has three components: 1) give you attention 2) accept you 3) take care of and protect you. Self-care is also associated with resilience, protection against negativity and prevention of depression or anxiety. Maybe when I travel alone I pay more attention to myself precisely because I am alone, I must accept myself as I am and if I don’t take care of myself or protect myself, no one else will.

Meaning and importance

While some might consider language to be a barrier to kind acts, I have found the opposite. Sometimes when language is removed or challenged, it opens up space to find the truest meaning. When I try to learn a little of the language of the country I visit, I engage in one of the five forms of well-being: learning something new. There is Cognitive benefits of being bilingual.although I wouldn’t consider my French or Spanish conversation as bilingual at all.

Standing in a strange place surrounded by strangers, I repeatedly ask myself, “What do I mean?”

Meaning matters more.

Happiness exchange rate

Of course, traveling costs money. And in a cost of living crisis, watching the pennies isn’t easy. There are ways to reduce the cost, such as camping or hostels instead of hotels. But even then, traveling not only costs money but also our other vital resource: time.

How happy you are doesn’t depend on how much money or time you have. but how we choose to spend both and how obsessed we become with either one. So traveling costs me time and money and makes me very happy.

Carbon footprint

The other big concern, besides money, regarding travel is the effect on the environment. There is a clear link between climate change and the negative impact on mental health. As global warming progresses, Prevalence of mental illness is predicted..

There is a call to Researchers to investigate what can be done to mitigate the impacts of the crisis. about mental well-being. There’s also a recommendation for vulnerable groups Like people with mental illness, children and young people need protection.

And yet, here I am, on a plane, contributing to the problem of my carbon footprint.

There are other ways to travel. Train, boat, bicycle, electric car and on foot are more environmentally friendly ways to explore the world. For my next trip, my goal is to choose those options. For now, I have waited so long to see the world and feel free in it, that I would love to enjoy it now that it is possible.

There was

When I was committed under the mental health law, a friend sent me photographs of a Sri Lankan beach he was visiting. He had written on the back of the photograph: “This will be waiting for you when you are ready.” I’m ready to see the world now and truly enjoy all it has to offer.

And when the plane lands in a new country, I realize; There I was… and here I am.

If you would like to take part in an exciting travel opportunity and raise vital funds for mental health research, Find out more about our trip to Iceland in 2024.

If you’d like to learn more about what it’s like to participate in a walk like this, Read about our Costa Rica Trek that took place in 2023.

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