The Secret to Happiness: A look at the powerful effects of travel on mood

Why am I so happy lately? It’s a question I’ve asked myself frequently since I started traveling three years ago. I know, why would anyone question it? Just be happy that I’m happy…right?

Except I have a need to know: To understand this lightness of mood, joy in my step, purpose in my passion. Where did it come from–and just as important–how can I be sure it continues?

This morning I read New neuroscience reveals 4 rituals that will make you happy and I finally saw the connection and how it relates to my travels.

The author indicates that four processes–gratitude, labeling emotions, touching people, and making decisions–affect the brain and lead to happiness. You don’t need to travel to start implementing these strategies, but I was interested to realize that through the act of travel I had inadvertently implemented them all. And gained happiness in the process.

MindMap I created this morning to remind me of the keys to happiness.
  1. Gratitude: I’ve practiced an attitude of gratitude for as long as I can remember. It’s probably a trait instilled by my adventure-seeking mother. What interested me in the article was the mention that we don’t necessarily need to find something to be grateful for, that the search itself is enough. Regardless, even though I’ve practiced it without even realizing, I also know that my gratitude factor has increased exponentially since I started traveling. Every new experience, a friend made along the way, a reverent sight I’ve seen, or a fear I’ve overcome, has instilled gratitude.
  2. Label Emotions: I was terrified on my first few solo trips. In the beginning, the thought of being so far away from the comfort and security of home brought a fear of the unknown. But by stopping and labeling each emotion, I faced it and moved forward. Plus every fear overcome is one more reason to feel grateful.
  3. Touch People: I didn’t realize this was lacking until I started taking group media trips last year. The connection with like minds thrilled me more than I could have realized. But even while traveling solo I found a greater connection to people that I wasn’t getting by working from my home office. Also, I’ve added regular massage appointments and have noticed the benefits.
  4. Make Decisions: Many years ago I was in a difficult relationship where I often felt powerless. I would write in my journal, “What do I want right now?” because I struggled with making decisions. Later, as I came into and found my inner power, decision making became easier. Even so, while traveling, my mantra became “take the next step,” because the next step is always a decision to move forward.

Here’s an illustration I created (based on the tips in the article) to show the path from gratitude to happiness. Start in the center with gratitude.


So now I know there is a physical reason for my increased happiness–and how travel launched the change.

How about you? Have you noticed ways in which travel has increased your happiness?


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