After more than two years of social restrictions, you’re probably eager to start traveling again this summer. And it’s no wonder, given the isolation, fear and uncertainty that were such a part of daily life during the pandemic. Getting away, whether for a day, a weekend or a longer trip, has multiple mental health benefits that may be more important now than ever.
Here are six ways traveling this summer can help improve your emotional health, as advised by Dr. Angela Webb, a licensed clinical psychologist and Teladoc clinician.
How summer travel can help your mental health
- Sleep better.One in 3 American adults don’t get enough sleep—and that’s not something to snooze on, since lack of sleep is linked to chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression.1 If you’ve found restless nights and bouts of disrupted sleep to be far too commonplace, getting away, even for a few days, can help reset your sleep pattern by interrupting the negative habits that impact your sleep quality (like watching a backlit screen before going to bed). “Taking even a mini vacation may help you relax enough to be able to fall asleep, stay asleep and feel rested upon waking,” says Dr. Webb.
- Reduce stress. The relaxed vibe you get on vacation speaks for itself. But the opportunity to separate yourself from those situations and environments causing you anxiety can also help alleviate stress-related physical symptoms such as headaches, backaches and heart irregularities. Even better: If you’re anything like the folks in this study from the University of Vienna, you could continue to see relief from such symptoms five weeks after you get back.
- Lift your mood. It’s not just the getaway itself that positively influences your mood. The anticipation and planning of a trip, even if weeks or months away, “can have profound effects on your happiness and provide an escape from tedious or mundane routines,” says the Missouri-based psychologist. To reap the full benefits of this premature lift in mood, start planning your next trip as soon as you return from your previous one—that way, you’ll always have something to be excited about and look forward to.
- Boost your creativity. If you’ve been in a rut personally or professionally, taking a break from your day-to-day routine could be just what you need to break out of it. New sights, sounds and experiences stimulate different parts of your brain, helping to wake it up and get your creative juices flowing. Take it from Hamilton: An American Musical creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda: “It was no accident that the best idea I’ve ever had in my life—perhaps the best one I’ll ever have in my life—came to me on vacation.”
- Improve your relationships. Trips of all lengths help bond you together with those you’re traveling with. Whether you get away with friends, family or a significant other, creating new shared experiences or recreating old ones helps everyone grow closer and see each other’s “best self”—the version that’s relaxed, joyful and focused on enjoying quality time. Getaways also provide the much-needed face-to-face time that’s so important to building and maintaining relationships.
- Broaden your perspective. “Breaking away from the all too familiar lets you experience ways of life other than your own,” shares Dr. Webb. Whether it’s adventuring out to the woods, mountains or ocean, or spending time in a new town or city, any change from what you’re used to will expand your comfort zone and expose you to new experiences and perspectives. So, say “yes” to trying new cuisines, meeting new people and exploring new natural and cultural attractions—and perhaps you’ll return with a new understanding of and appreciation for the diverse world around you.
It’s so easy to come up with excuses for why you can’t possibly afford to travel this summer (“I’m too busy,” “It’s too expensive,” “How will work get along without me?”), but giving yourself space to relax, reflect, recuperate and re-energize isn’t just worthwhile—it’s just what the doctor ordered. “You deserve to care for yourself in whatever way you need to, especially after the past year,” concludes Dr. Webb.
“Life is too short not to take part in the rituals, memories, destinations and experiences that will allow you to nourish yourself mentally, physically and spiritually.” –Dr. Angela Webb
Virtual therapy through Teladoc
Trips of all lengths can have a profound effect on your mental health—but so can using your Teladoc benefit to talk to a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. Teladoc offers online therapy services on your schedule, with experts available to talk by phone or video from wherever you are seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. local time. Get support for a wide range of mental health needs:
- Anxiety, stress
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Negative thought patterns
- Not feeling like yourself
- Not wanting to get out of bed
- Relationship conflicts
- Trauma and PTSD
- Mood swings
Do you feel your current treatment plan isn’t working or you’re just not feeling better? A Mental Health Treatment Review from our experts can help.
Updated March 30, 2022