Last updated July 12, 2023
We all know that travel can boost well-being, but how can we ensure that our vacation provides the maximum benefits? One of the best ways to boost well-being is to implement the lessons of positive psychology.
According to Chris Peterson (one of the founding fathers of positive psychology) the definition of positive psychology is “the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.”
Positive psychology has captivated the world of psychology ever since Martin Seligman pioneered the foundation in 1998. In developing a theory to support his scientific approach, Seligman and his colleagues recognized five building blocks of well-being. These 5 building blocks promote happiness within each of us.
The 5 Building Blocks of Positive Psychology
- Positive emotions
As a travel psychologist, I know that we will maximize our well-being if we can design our vacation to meet some (or all) of these five pillars.
Research shows that individuals with higher levels of well-being:
- Perform better at work
- Have more satisfying relationships
- Have stronger immune systems
- Have better physical health
- Have fewer sleep problems
- Have lower levels of burnout
- Have better self-regulation and coping skills
- Are more likely to be prosocial
So by looking deeper into each of these five elements of well-being, here are my five tips to boost well-being when you travel.
1. Ask yourself what you need right now
We all want to experience positive and pleasurable emotions on our vacation. This might include feelings of relaxation, bliss, inspiration, adventure or excitement. Our specific needs for positive emotions will differ depending on our personality, preferences and what is going on in our lives at the current moment.
It sounds obvious to design our vacation around what we might need. Be that as it may, there are many other drivers of trip-planning that aren’t focused on our current needs.
We can be drawn to busy destinations when we might really need some restoration and relaxation. We may be drawn to a beach destination when really some adventure is what we need.
Think about what is going on in your life and tune in to what you really want and need. When you think about designing your vacation, spend some time visualizing what it might feel like to be there and what positive emotions you might be experiencing.
Think about your destination choices and ask yourself: What am I going to enjoy on my trip? What might give me a sense of relaxation, fulfilment, pleasure or satisfaction?
2. Identify activities that will engage you
Engagement means being fully absorbed in an activity and feeling connected. If we can curate experiences that provide this, it can supercharge our well-being.
We are all very different so the kinds of activities that engage us will vary. It can help to identify the activities that you have felt fully absorbed in on previous trips.
Alternatively, you might identify something that you have always pictured yourself doing. For some people the feeling of being in the ocean can help them to feel engaged and connected. For others adventure activities might do the trick for them.
3. Create conditions for relationships to flourish
Relationships with others boost well-being and travel is often a good opportunity to reconnect with one another away from the demands of everyday life.
Ask yourself the following questions: What activities might help me to feel connected to my partner or travel companion? What activities might we enjoy together? If travelling alone, will the trip give me opportunities to meet and chat to other people?
4. Find meaning on your vacation
As a psychologist, I know that positive well-being is often about using our limited time and energy on things that really matter to us personally. It is important to identify what your trip may provide that really matters to you.
Your potential destination might be meaningful to you in that it might be somewhere you have always dreamed of visiting. You might find a spa getaway meaningful as a special treat after achieving a milestone at work.
The important thing is that it is meaningful to you personally!
5. Curate opportunities for accomplishment
Feeling that we have accomplished something can help us to feel satisfied and fulfilled. On our travels this is not about being productive.
However, we can use our energy to take part in an activity that provides a sense of accomplishment. For those adventure lovers this might mean climbing a mountain or spotting some rare marine life at a world class dive site.
For those of us who prefer a more relaxed trip, this might mean taking some beautiful photos that preserve your memory of the breathtaking scenery.
So there you have it. Five tips to boost well-being when you travel—by designing your vacation through the building blocks of positive psychology.
About the author: Dr. Charlotte Russell is a UK-based Clinical Psychologist and the founder of The Travel Psychologist project. The Travel Psychologist project draws on the expertise of psychologists with varied experiences of travel. Our mission is to use psychology to help you to travel with purpose and to get the most out of your trips.
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