Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

Why travel is good for your mental health

Travel is a really good way to keep yourself mentally well and support your emotional well being. Travelling offers new perspectives on the world and can help you see the world from different angles. Travelling abroad really pushes you out of your comfort zone and can teach you more about your strengths and weaknesses.

Reduces depression

Depression can be improved by travelling. One of the main ways in which therapists treat depression is to help the client increase their activity during the day. We call this behavioural activation. When you go travelling, you are engaging with others, trying new things and being active in many ways. This is an excellent antidote to depression. One of the worst things that depressed individuals can do is isolate themselves and withdraw from others. When we feel depressed it’s common to want to hide under the covers and stay at home. This is, however, one of the worst strategies for lifting depression.

A few years back I was feeling pretty sorry for myself after going through a relationship breakup. I decided to travel to Los Angeles to visit an old friend of mine who left there. I remember crying on the plane flying over to Los Angeles, feeling very sad and hopeless. Once I arrived in Los Angeles I caught a bus to the car hire terminal. While waiting in line to arrange my car I felt tearful again. I remember feeling very alone and wondered whether I had made a bad decision visiting LA.

Once I saw my friend I put a smile on my face and tried to make the most of it. My thoughts regularly drifted back to my ex-partner, but over the next few days I began to feel like my old self. My routine was different, I was meeting new people and seeing new places. I spent time lying in the sun listening to music on my ipod. I still felt sad but the hopelessness lifted.

Travelling can be an excellent way to revamp your mood and feel happier quite quickly. It won’t help if you have had longstanding issues such as continuous relationship troubles or relationship difficulties that will still be there when you return. In that case, you will just take your troubles with you. So while travelling can be fantastic it cannot be a cure-all for all problems.


Improves levels of anxiety

One of the best ways to cure anxiety is to adopt approach behaviour rather than avoidant behaviour. Intolerance of uncertainty creates anxiety and as a result, we avoid anything where we are unsure of the outcome. We mistakenly assume that not knowing must mean the outcome is likely to be bad.  We often overestimate the threat, for example:  that we will not cope or that we will be humiliated, rejected or it will fail. We also underestimate our ability to cope and as a result, we avoid trying altogether. The problem with avoidance is that we never get to reality test our fears. Travelling is a great form of approach behaviour. If everything goes well on your travels –  that’s brilliant, but even if they don’t go well, it’s most likely that you will find a way to get through the problem. This in itself increases confidence and improves our self-reliance. At first, anxiety is likely to be higher at the start of travelling, but what you might find stressful on day one will seem like a breeze on day 14.

Travelling can change your life – it gives you a good foundation to learn about yourself and the world. It increases confidence over time and strengthens our ability to rely on ourselves. Travelling can also be a way to live life in line with your values. If you enjoy adventure, freedom and meeting new people – there’s three values taken care of immediately. Independence, self-growth and learning could also be included.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend travelling as a way to strengthen mental health, emotional wellbeing and increase confidence.

Mandy X


Photo by Nils Nedel on Unsplash