When life gets hectic, the first thing we think is, man, I need a vacation. Turns out, we know ourselves best. A recent study shows real proof that tourism, or travel therapy, has major mental health benefits beyond standard R&R.
Researchers from Australia’s Edith Cowan University found a link between tourism and mental health improvement, most notably with dementia (1). Led by Dr. Jun Wen, a team of tourism, public health, and marketing experts studied the effects that travel had on those living with dementia.
“Medical experts can recommend dementia treatments such as music therapy, exercise, cognitive stimulation, reminiscence therapy, sensory stimulation, and adaptations to a patient’s mealtimes and environment,” says Dr. Wen. “These [treatments] are also often found when on holidays.”
Travel Therapy and Dementia
For those living with dementia, travel therapy stimulates cognitive and sensory stimulation, according to the study. When it comes to meals, the interaction with others in social settings was found to have a positive influence on eating behavior in those individuals as well.
“Everything that comes together to represent a holistic tourism experience, makes it easy to see how patients with dementia may benefit from tourism as an intervention,” says Dr. Wen.
Tourism and Mental Health as a Whole
Tourism may also improve mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Recreational activities like walking the streets of ancient cities, or taking in fresh air and sunshine as you lounge on the beach aren’t just fun—they have cognitive benefits, too.
Exercise improves mental well-being and alleviates symptoms of anxiety and depression by releasing endorphins (your body’s “feel good” hormones to relieve pain and stress) and boosting mood (2).
As for sunlight, one study notes that exposure to sun has a positive impact on depression, anxiety, and stress (3) thanks to vitamin D, also called the “sunshine vitamin,” an important nutrient for immunity, muscle function, and brain health.
Dr. Wen made clear that further research should be done to see if tourism and travel therapy is a worthwhile method of medical treatment for mental health diseases. But if you need an extra excuse to book that vacation, just think of the good it’ll do for your mental health.