Now that slowly things are hopefully getting back to normal we can all start to look forward to travel/changing our environment again. I have been in the UK for a short visit and it always intrigues me at how recharged I feel when I am in a different environment. When I say travel it can be Gozo or any other part of Malta you haven’t been to. Pick a spot that you haven’t seen in a while.
So, what is it that happens in our brain that gives us this sense of excitement and alertness when we change our environment ?
Most often we tend to get stuck in our daily routines. This routine becomes repetitive and the mind starts to get bored over time. When we travel every new destination introduces novelty to our mind which in turn activates the cognitive networks that keep our brain healthy.
“When you expose your brain to an environment that’s novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts,” says Dr. Paul Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist from the University of Pittsburgh.
When we travel and are surrounded by new places we are flooded with new experiences and the brain gets kicking and starts to process all these stimuli which helps train the brain as if it were a muscle. Just like using dumbbells we are training with new sights, activities, flavours, people, languages and so much more.
How to get the most value out of your trip:
Travel won’t bring the desired results if you don’t challenge yourself along the way. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and do something you’ve never done before.
I love white water rafting for example and every raft down a river is always a different experience and in turn stimulates the brain each time. The part of the brain that has to do with pleasure, reward and reinforcement is the nucleus accumbens. So each time any one of you is at the gym, diving, swimming etc , this part of the brain gets activated. Activities like these stimulate new connections between nerve cells and helps the brain to generate new cells. Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites. Dendrites (extensions of neurons that transmit information between different parts of the brain) are responsible for how well your brain performs.
Health benefits of travelling later in life
Plasticity continues to adapt throughout your life. This means that we’re able to make our brains healthier at any age. According to the Global Coalition on Ageing, there’s adequate research to suggest that regular participation in social or leisure activities, including travel, has the potential to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Do you ever feel older than your years? Travel can provide a solution. According to the latest findings by Dr. Hambrick, openness to experiences can soften people’s experience of growing older. In other words, travel makes us feel young again.
Travelling later in life is not only important, but highly recommended. Go ahead and explore the world - your brain will thank you. My parents are a testament to this and are blessed with the energy to always be planning where they are going to next. This planning ahead also stimulates the brain so start thinking where you would like to visit, go for a drive somewhere new or find an experience that excites you.