Using travel as a
stress reliever

Sometimes, travelling for work can be pretty stressful. Charging about the planet from meeting to meeting and from hotel room to hotel room gives you very little time to relax and unwind.

But, with a recent study showing that travel is actually good for relieving stress, as well as improving your physical, mental and emotional health and increasing productivity, perhaps the answer is to extend those work trips and add a little bit of ‘me time’ at the end. Who knows, it might help you to live longer too.

In December 2013, the Global Commission on Aging and the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, in partnership with the US Travel Association, released a report highlighting the health benefits of travelling. The report showed that travel not only broadens the mind, but reduces the risk of heart attacks and depression too. This works in the same way as completing puzzles or learning a new skill does; doing something different and breaking your routine keeps your mind stimulated and active, while promoting good brain function.

The study’s main findings demonstrated that, with participant income and pre-existing health conditions accounted for, women who take holidays less than once every six years have a significantly higher risk of heart attacks or coronary death when compared with women who take holidays at least twice a year. Furthermore, men who took no holidays over a year-long period had a 20% greater risk of death - and a 30% greater risk of death from heart disease - than those who took at least one holiday.

These results back up an earlier report published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal explaining that travel can lower the risk of depression. This time, studies found that women who take holidays at least twice a year are less likely to suffer from depression and chronic stress than women who holiday less than once every two years (Vacations Improve Mental Health Among Rural Women: The Wisconsin Rural Women’s Health Study, Chikani et al, 2005).

The good news is that it doesn’t even take that long for the benefits of travel to kick in. After only a day or two of holiday, 89% of respondents saw significant drops in their stress levels. The travellers continued to report feeling less anxious three days after returning home, with their elevated mood lasting for up to a few weeks.

Interestingly, the health benefits of travel start long before you ever step foot on a plane. Simply booking a holiday can help to improve your mood. An experiment conducted by Cornell University in 2014 showed that happiness levels rise when planning a holiday, and that the excitement felt when looking forward to a trip is greater than the anticipation experienced when buying a new item – and lasts longer, too (Waiting for Merlot: Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases, Kumar et al, Psychological Science, 2014).

With the benefits of travel clear, it will come as no surprise that those who travel are significantly more likely to feel satisfied about their overall mood and outlook on life than those who don’t.

In December 2014, an additional report published by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that over seven in 10 Americans said travel has helped them enjoy the current period in their life, with just under half responding that travel improves their mood and outlook ‘a lot’, and a third reporting stress reduction, strengthened relationships and health improvements.

So, there you have it. Scientific proof that travel reduces stress and promotes physical and mental well-being. So go on, add a few days’ holiday to your next business trip. Your body will thank you for it.