It’s no secret that vacations make us happy.
I mean, who doesn’t love the carefree feeling of leaving work behind and anticipating all the fun awaiting us just around the corner?
Even better, science actually agrees that traveling not only makes us happy, but it can actually rewire our brain!
With the majority of Americans feeling overworked and stressed out, the “2 weeks” vacation policy most companies give their employees just doesn’t seem to be enough.
In fact, Expedia reported 81 percent of people take a vacation specifically for “mental wellness”.
But many people also seem to let their vacation days expire – or simply choose to spend their money on material possessions vs. experiences.
However, studies show that material goods can only do so much to make us happy, and we are far better off to spend our time and money on experiences – as they are the gift that keeps on giving.
In addition, research shows traveling can even improve our brain.
Yes it’s true — you can actually sharpen your brain and extend the “high” from your vacation both before, during, and after your trip!
Not only is a break from the grind soothing, but experiencing a new culture and adventure releases all kinds of hormones in the body that makes us feel good – even before we step off the plane.
So if you’re feeling a bit down and depressed, consider the benefits of a good ol’ fashioned vacation – instead of buying material possessions to make you happy.
Okay, so you’ve booked your trip and are planning out the details of your next vacation… and now you have to wait.
Whether your trip is in 2 weeks or a month, the waiting period can seem long… but yet oh so exciting!
Your heart begins to race as you dream about what’s ahead.
Studies show that before you even take your trip, your brain is already in the pleasure zone at the sheer anticipation.
Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good, is triggered as you begin to get excited about all that’s in store.
You don’t yet know who you’ll meet, the sights and sounds you’ll experience, or the places you’ll go.
Just being in the anticipation stage of your trip is good for the brain.
Experiencing New Sites And Sounds
There’s something surreal about experiencing a new place for the first time.
It’s as if there is a whole other world that you never even knew about.
Soaking in the customs and culture of a new place is exhilarating as you discover how other people live firsthand.
Sure, some customs and traditions might be hard to adjust to.
But you’re bound to pick up new ways of doing things – you might even add them to your everyday life.
Maybe you’ll learn to loosen up and enjoy life more.
Or perhaps you’ll find a new favorite food you suddenly can’t live without.
So don’t be afraid of trying new things while you’re on vacation!
When you travel to a new or foreign place, you are forced out of your comfort zone.
And the best part of all is your brain thrives in this environment!
In Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life, Dr. Michael Merzenich — known as “the father of brain plasticity” — explains the importance of getting outside our comfort zone and embracing the unfamiliar. People who travel to new places, keep learning languages and continue to experience new things into old age, are far less likely to develop cognitive decay, according to Merzenich’s weighty body of research.”
And even if you’re visiting your favorite spot, consider trying something new.
Sample a food you’ve never tried before. Talk to the locals and ask them what 3 places they recommend you check out.
And if you’re in a foreign country, try and learn the language – at least a few phrases!
When I was in El Salvador, I was able to communicate with the locals by speaking the choppy Spanish I knew. Sure, it wasn’t fluent, but locals appreciate the effort.
I also ate with locals and did life as they did – and I fell in love with their vibrant and laid-back culture.
You too can experience all these wonderful things by being willing to do something different and step outside your comfort zone.
Your Afterglow Will Last
When you get back from vacation, your glow will be deeper than your sun-kissed skin.
After stepping into another world, your brain is forever changed.
You’ll have new stories and memories to share with your friends and family – plus you scored some breathtaking pictures of some of the most beautiful places you’ve ever seen.
And because you were willing to try new things, you’ll even feel smarter from all you learned!
Who would have thought all of this could happen just from taking a vacation?!
So if you’re looking for something to make you happy, put down the credit card at the mall and get on a plane instead.
And hey listen, we know it’s not always feasible to just hop on a plane and jet across the globe.
Reality still exists, and we all have responsibilities with work and family.
But you can still get creative with your vacation!
Consider a road trip to a place you’ve never been before.
Get in the car with your significant other or friends and drive – with no destination in mind.
And know that as you travel, you are literally changing your brain and gaining experiences that will never rust or rot.
The world is your playground and the possibilities are endless – so go have fun!
Do you agree it’s better to invest in experiences rather than things?
What is your favorite part about taking a vacation?
Tell us your thoughts in the comments below! And be sure to share this article with all your family and friends!