Can Travel Change The Way Your Brain Works?

Most people in the world have a strong desire to explore the deepest confines of the world. Unfortunately, many people are unable to do so due to financial constraints or because ‘it would be a waste of time’. However, the truth is that travel can have an incredible impact on your life. Don’t take my word for it though, even science can back me up on this!

Stress Buster

Credit: Moyan Brenn

Credit: Moyan Brenn

We all know that fresh air can make you physically healthier, but what about your psychological health? Our collective psychological health is beginning to sink due to an overall increase in urbanization, which leads to severe stress and depression. According to experts, the best way to deal with this problem is to switch off those parts of the brain that induce these psychological ailments. Psychiatrists therefore recommend several drugs that can help us “switch off” the brain.

The thing is, you don’t need those drugs, because there is a much easier and more natural way to achieve this.

Scientists studied a group of people who were instructed to walk for 90 minutes through the woods. Within that short amount of time, the activity in the area of the brain that controls psychological illnesses and stress-related troubles reduced significantly. If only 90 minutes can have such positive results, imagine what effects several days in the remote areas of the world could have on you!

Creativity

A group of volunteers were asked to spend a few days away from the concrete jungles of the world, with all their electronic devices switched off. While they resided there, scientists gave them several tests that dealt with creative thinking. They were also given complicated tasks to complete in that setting.

And guess what? Their level of creative and problem-solving skills increased by 50%! Therefore, if you’re pushing through a writing block or a professional hurdle, simply take a few days away from it all. You have a much better chance of finding more solutions and creative epiphanies that way!

Don’t get me wrong…. if you go to Amsterdam and don’t venture out from the comforts of your hotel, there might not be a significant change in your creativity levels. However, if you go and engage the locals in a conversation and cycle around the city, you’ll probably notice a difference!

Travelexperience

This is because creativity is directly connected to the neuroplasticity of the brain, i.e., your brain’s ability to adapt to new situations and sensory inputs. “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integration of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel.

That means you don’t really have to spend a lot of money to travel to expensive tourist destinations. The trick is forcing yourself to thrive in a different culture, even if that just means traveling through a new neighborhood near you.

Strengthening of Self

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Travel also helps you build your character in the long run. Cross-cultural experiences have the potential to strengthen a person’s sense of self, says Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, an associate professor of education and psychology at the University of Southern California. “What a lot of psychological research has shown now is that the ability to engage with people from different backgrounds than yourself, and the ability to get out of your own social comfort zone, is helping you to build a strong and acculturated sense of your own self,” she says.

Increase in Open-Mindedness And Intelligence

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A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that students who studied abroad were more open to new experiences in their everyday lives than those who stayed on campus for their entire university career. They were also more humble and 20% more likely to solve a computer task than those who didn’t travel.

Forcing yourself to survive in an environment by learning a second language contributes to a major spike in your IQ. Learning another language helps your brain muscles get stronger and form new neural connections in the brain. Basically, traveling can literally make your brain faster and stronger!

Faith in Humanity

Multiculturalism

Travel pulls you out of your comfort zone and forces you to interact with people that have different cultural and historical backgrounds. In doing so, you become less prejudiced and more trusting.

In a 2012 study out of Tel Aviv University, researchers found that people who “believe that racial groups have fixed underlying essences”—beliefs the authors termed “essentialist views”—performed significantly worse in creative tests than those who saw cultural and racial divisions as arbitrary and malleable.

Basically, your wanderlust can help you get rid of those pessimistic views that you harbor in your mind and encourages you to think outside the box!

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Now that you know about all the advantages of gaining new experiences away from the comforts of your home, what are you waiting for? Grab a bag and head out to find the road less traveled!

References:

  1. Why Your Brain Needs Vacations – Cable News Network (CNN)
  2. Travel Broadens The Mind, But Can It Alter The Brain? – The Guardian
  3. Mental Strain Helps Maintain a Healthy Brain – Health Information and Medical Information- Harvard Health
The short URL of the present article is: http://sciabc.us/FKEpI
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About the Author:

Vaishnavi has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Anthropology from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai (India) and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Global Studies (whatever that is) from Humboldt University, Berlin (Germany). She loves to read and to sing, especially to avoid awkward situations. She claims she has learned a lot through traveling but she still ends up pulling a door marked ‘Push’, so the jury is still out on that one.

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