Many people feel excited and uplifted when they come upon a new place, or a landscape they’ve never seen before. In today’s stressful society, mental health is becoming increasingly important, and according to recent research, traveling may reduce stress, help prevent disease, and improve health.
How is Traveling Related to Mental Health?
With the current pandemic forcing people to cut back on travel, some may feel deprived of methods to relieve stress due to their inability to go out. For some of us, traveling has been a way to relieve daily fatigue and stress. In general, popular travel attractions such as sports activities and relaxing spas, are considered healthy activities.
Despite the occasional negatives like bad weather, unexpected accidents, or sub-par customer service, we believe that most experiences we gained from traveling are positive. This is because we feel relieved from everyday life, get the opportunity to enjoy our hobbies, and experience freedom, all while having an extraordinary time. Yes, these are all the positive pleasures of travel, but is there actually any scientific evidence that traveling is good for us?
The Benefits of Chromogranin A
One case study tested human saliva to verify the stress-reducing effects of traveling by measuring the participants’ stress levels before, during, and after a trip. The human body secretes a hormone called “cortisol” when under stress, and conversely, a protein called “chromogranin A” is secreted when we are in a good mood. When these two substances were investigated throughout a three-day travel tour, the levels of cortisol decreased during the trip compared to before the trip, while the levels of chromogranin A increased dramatically during the trip. In particular, there were significant effects on people with low stressors on a daily basis, which suggests that travel was an effective way for them to feel refreshed. In addition, for those who felt high-stress loads, there was no significant effect, which suggests a re-evaluation of duration, location, and method for their future travels.
Planning A Trip Improves Mental Health
While traveling itself is of course beneficial, the excitement of planning helps relieve stress as well. Stress can be relieved through the build-up of excitement, curiosity, and adventure. We’re filled with anticipation when we search about the local scenery, foods, sights, or accommodations. If the planning itself feels too stressful, we can always opt for a group tour where everything is pre-planned and packaged together for us to save time.
Creating a plan we look forward to, will make our daily life more exciting! It will serve as motivation for our daily work or studies. The same can be said for events that we are excited about, not just trips.
Travel Experiences are Priceless
When we travel to unfamiliar destinations, we are bound to encounter a few unexpected events. If things don’t go as planned or problems arise, the hardships we face to think for ourselves and resolve situations will become an invaluable experience in life. Another positive we gain from traveling is learning new things and getting to know new people with different values. As our daily routines become more and more monotonous, we get used to our own lifestyles, which ends up narrowing our perspectives and values. When this happens, we can get frustrated about feeling stuck in a pigeonhole, ultimately leading to a build-up of stress. Enjoying a time of openness and exposure to new values can relieve the vast, unexplainable stress you feel every day.
Mental Health Care Through Wellness Tourism
The term “wellness tourism” or “health tourism,” is used to describe a medically-based approach to tourism that restores, maintains, and promotes health and wellness. In recent years, its effects are highly anticipated in terms of improving mental health.
The term “wellness tourism” has been defined in different ways, albeit with slightly differing terminology:
Wellness tourism [is] all travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing.Global Wellness Institute
Leisure, recreational and educational activities removed from the distractions of work and home that use tourism products and services that are designed to promote and enable customers to improve and maintain their health and well-being.Pollock & Williams (2000)
Wellness tourism is the sum of all relationships and phenomena resulting from a change of location and residence by people in order to preserve or promote their health.Müller & Kaufmann (2001)
Wellness tourism has many potential benefits for mental health. Tourism for the purpose of physical and mental health are quickly gaining popularity across the world. These tours include programs such as:
・Physical activity (Healing through the use of hiking, climbing, pilates, yoga, etc.)
・Natuopathy (Meditations and/or massages that are held in nature)
・Dietary therapy (Healthy dietary menus and/or homeopathic medicines)
However, the scientific evidence on whether wellness tourism is effective in relieving stress and improving mental health is yet to be proven. More research is expected to be conducted in the future. One thing for sure is that the positive health benefits of travel can surely bring a smile to many people’s faces. Seeking healing away from the confines of daily life may become an essential element for the stress-filled people of today’s society.
Makino, H., Toda, M., Kobayashi, H., & Morimoto, K. (2008). The effect of stress relief which is caused by traveling. Japan Institute of Tourism Research, 19(2), 9-18. doi: 10.18979/jitr.19.2_9
Müller, H., & Kaufmann, E.L. (2001). Wellness tourism: Market analysis of a special health tourism segment and implications for the hotel industry. Journal of vacation marketing, 7(1), 5-17. doi: 10.1177/135676670100700101
Ohashi, S. (2018). Development of Wellness Tourism : A New Trend in Modern Tourism. Wakayama University Association for Tourism Studies, 18, 107-117.
Pollock, A., & Williams, P. (2000). Health tourism trends: closing the gap between health care and tourism. Trends in outdoor recreation, leisure and tourism., 165-173.