Travel equals happiness. It is a scientific fact. Recent studies show that experiences are a key factor for creating and sustaining happiness; far more than material things.
This is what I found out taking, The Science of Wellness, a course offered by Yale University through Coursera. (In keeping with our budget travel blog philosophy you will be glad to know that it is free to take.)
The course is ten weeks in length. You go at your own pace and schedule. I completed the course over four months. A free course from Yale. You can even get a certificate with the prestigious Yale University at the top.
The studies presented in the course focused on five main happiness triggers; meaningful experiences, living in the moment, meditation, time affluence and being kind to others.
What I found out in the course is that our intuition of what makes us happy; like having lots of money, a perfect body, true love and lots of great things is wrong. What really brings us happiness are experiences and travel is one of the strongest experiences you can have. Particularly if it is meaningful slow travel.
Meaningful travel means different things to different people. For some it is doing humanitarian work (being kind to others), for others it is immersing and experiencing different cultures (also being kind to others through your interactions), while still others may gain happiness experiencing the sunrise from many spiritual mountains around the world.
What scientists have found out is that not only is the actual experience a major boost of happiness but so is the planning. In studies, the simple act of planning a trip boosted happiness in people by up to eight weeks.
Another main happiness trigger is reliving the experience when you come home. Viewing your pictures and videos, creating a digital scrap book or sharing your experience with others creates happiness. One reason I write this blog is that it allows me to relive my travel experiences and makes me happy.
Is your life too hectic? Are your days filled with one thing after another thing without much enjoyment? Is your day all about getting things done without taking time to appreciate the moment? It is important for your happiness to live in the moment and appreciate the things around you. We know from studies that the path to happiness is slowing the pace of our lives down and living in the moment. It is not about rushing through life without time for yourself or others.
Another trigger for happiness is time affluence. This is having the time to pursue activities that are personally meaningful and bring joy to you. In this time of overbooking ourselves, many do not have time for the simple enjoyment of life, we relegate ourselves to being unhappy.
Daily meditation is a happiness trigger. A study by Harvard demonstrated that after just eight weeks of meditation there are measurable physical and psychological changes to the brain. The area responsible for happiness and well being gets more blood flow and gets thicker while the area for sadness and depression show far less activity than before meditation.
We know from observation that meditation reduces stress, frustration, depression, and pain. It heightens happiness and increases patience, acceptance and compassion towards other. Just take a look at the Dalai Lama. There is a person with a lot of patience, acceptance and compassion towards others, and he meditates every day.
Things that bring us happiness, like living mindfully, getting in touch with personal values, and cultivating self awareness are all things that will come naturally with meaningful travel that is a self discovery journey. Slow travel ratchets down the pace of life. It allows you to live in the moment and see things through eyes of wonder that stimulates curiosity.
Studies show that curiosity releases dopamine that puts us in a heightened state. This is why when people come back from a slow meaningful travel trip they are on a high and cannot wait to go again. It’s why we get addicted to travel.
All of these happiness triggers; meaningful experiences, being kind to others, living in the moment, meditation and time affluence bring about the state of happiness. When you are involved in slow meaningful travel all the triggers are pulled and you are at your maximum happiness.
Start by planning your next trip even if you do not go. It will bring you happiness.