Want a Healthy Brain? Take a Trip!

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Did you know that travel is good for the brain? Who knew that something boomers consider fun has medical benefits beyond the extra physical activity that a trip creates?

When Ruth Curran, Cranium Crunches, and Mary Lanzavecchia, Reclaiming Mary, invited me to a Blab about why travel is good for the brain, I knew that I better show up prepared. After all, Ruth and Mary are experts on the topic of brain injury recovery. And Ruth has written about the topic in Being Brain Healthy.

Being the over-prepared boomer woman that I am, I couldn’t just show up for the blab to talk about why I think travel is good for the brain. I went looking for articles and research to back up my opinions. And I found plenty. Keep reading to discover 5 major reasons that travel is good for the brain.

5 reasons why traveling is good for the brain. Be brain healthy. Take a trip!
Be brain healthy. Take a trip!

Travel sharpens your brain

On a trip, I pay more attention to the sights, smells, tastes and noises around me. When the destination offers different experiences from daily life, my brain grows new pathways and improves connections that already exist.

And, according to an article in BuzzFeed that cites research from Environmental Psychology, outdoor travel is especially beneficial for sharpening brains because it refreshes our senses. When I’m on a nature-type trip, I look closer, listen harder and smell more acutely, which raises awareness of my surroundings and heightens focus, not to mention the stress-relieving benefits being out in nature gives me.

Travel improves problem solving

How do I get from the airport to the city? What’s the best route for the next road trip? With travel, the problem solving begins long before Alan and I lock the front door. And it continues during the trip when we often find ourselves needing to make snap decisions due to cancelled flights, route detours or any number of details that can go wrong.

Yes, you can argue that problem solving is a part of daily life. But it’s heightened when solving the problem includes communicating in a different language or driving on the opposite side of the road. These types of problems challenge our brains to work harder putting new meaning into the saying “use it or loose it.”

Travel boosts creativity

I don’t know about you, but when I’m traveling, my mind practically explodes with new ideas. And this is especially true when there are long amounts of downtime in the car or on international flights. My “unscientific” theory is that by resting my brain from the usual activities, I’m allowing new ideas to rise to the surface.

But an article in The Atlantic claims it’s more than that, especially for international travelers. The article quotes Columbia Business School professor, Adam Galinsky, who says that international travel exercises cognitive flexibility—the brain’s ability to jump between different ideas—which is an important component of creativity.

Travel expands your mind

Want to challenge your way of thinking? Visit a culture that’s totally different from your own. Experiencing how other people live causes us to look, and sometimes question, our way of living. And our brain grows as a result.

In a Chicago Tribune article, clinical neuropsychologist, Paul Nussbaum, says that exposing our brains to an environment that is new-to-us and complex, produces dendrites in the brain, increasing the brain’s capacity. He likens it to creating a jungle inside the brain.

Travel gets you out of a rut

Are you guilty of doing the same thing in the same way day after day? Raising my hand here. Habits are hard to break, especially as we age. Lifehack reminds us that “travel kick-starts a brain that has become mired in everyday routines,” thus strengthening neural pathways.

Travel also forces us out of a rut while providing the opportunity to change our ways. Each time Alan and I return from a trip, we’re filled with good intentions for changing up our lives. Even if we accomplish only one or two of the changes, it’s helped our brains to grow.

If, like me, you’re a boomer in the midst of watching elderly family members deal with dementia, cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s, you’re searching for everything that you can do to avoid the same fate. Did you know that travel can play a big part in maintaining brain health? So be nice to your brain. Take a trip!

Do you think that travel is good for the brain? Come join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook. Or send us an email with your thoughts.

I’ve included an Amazon link to Mary’ book for your convenience. However My Itchy Travel Feet receives a small portion of the sale at no additional cost to you.

Scratch those itchy travel feet!

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