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  • Writer's pictureAmy Smith

Why Holidays are so Good for us?!

It is easy for us to be consumed by everyday demands from our work and other duties. On the one hand this can be helpful for us; humans are creatures of habit, most of us like the routine and the predictability that these demands bring, it can provide a sense of purpose, a good sense of achievement and can boost our self-worth. On the other hand, having to meet too many demands and having too little time to relax, especially over a prolonged period (which is often the case in our fast-paced society), can be detrimental to our emotional and mental wellbeing. Our brains and bodies are not designed for this lifestyle.

Many take the opportunity to break away from this by travelling (when there’s not a global pandemic!). There are various reasons why travelling can be highly beneficial to our emotional and mental wellbeing which can lead to individuals to have the desire to travel:

1) It can provide a much needed break from the various demands placed upon us (and that we place on ourselves!). Many people downplay the important of having time away from high demands upon us and, instead, committing time to rest and relaxation. Particularly as we live in a society that places importance upon being driven, success and achievement. However, a theory from a therapy approach called Compassion Focused Therapy can help to explain the importance of reducing the demands on us and committing more time to relaxation:

It is believed we have three main emotion regulation systems in our brain;

Threat/protect: the function of this system is to look out for potential danger which gives rise to anxiety and stress. This provides us the message that we must make efforts to protect ourselves

Incentive/Resource focused: this system drives us to seek out resources that help us survive (e.g. sex, status, food). It contributes to feelings of pleasure and excitement, it also provides a good sense of achievement

Contentment/self-soothing system: this system is involved in us feeling safe, relaxed and helps us restore balance

For a healthy emotional and mental wellbeing, it is important for there to be a balance in these three systems. However, in our busy lives, the first two systems (threat/protect and incentive/resource focused) are often highly activated and the third system (contentment/self-soothing system) gets neglected. This undoubtedly leads to high levels of anxiety, stress and perhaps depression. This highlights the need for us to commit time to relax, alleviate the demands upon us which can be gained from travelling. Being away and in a different environment can take us away from the pull to complete an increasing number of demanding tasks.

2) When we are in our home/work environment we can be distracted and overwhelmed by the numerous tasks that we see around us that are not completed. This makes it difficult for our minds to relax and remain on the present moment which would otherwise help to calm our minds and bodies. Travelling can remove us from these environments where we constantly see tasks that need completing, thus allowing us to be more present focused/mindful

3) In our busy lives we can easily be on autopilot. When our minds are in autopilot we are often thinking (and worrying!) about things in our future and our past which takes us away from the here and now. If we do not stop and be mindful, we may be taking actions that lead us away from things that are important to us. The more we take actions away from what’s important to us the less fulfilled we are in life. Travelling provides us with the much needed time away from our busy lives and competing demands. Instead, it is easier to be more mindful, or, present focused. This is especially the case if you are surrounded by beautiful nature which can help absorb you in the here and now moment. This can also help individuals to take a step back and re-evaluate their values. This can provide the space to reflect upon future choices and actions to enable one to live their lives more in accordance with one’s values and thus, live a more fulfilling life

4) Travelling can free us from the social norms, attitudes and pressures that surround us. We may be introduced to other/different social norms and attitudes when we travel. This can allow us to take a step back from our own and reflect upon how they are affecting us and how we choose to let them affect us in the future

5) Although there is a big part of us that likes routine and structure that our lives often bring, it can be daunting to think that this is all there is to life; lots of work and little play. When we travel we experience new places and people which can provide much enjoyment that can bring more meaning and satisfaction to life

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