The scientific basis of happiness-inducing travel

Travel can make you feel better. There seems to be a science behind the joy that comes from visiting new places. This is how traveling may truly increase happiness.

Our mental health is greatly impacted by the excitement of discovering a new location, people, and experiences. This excitement starts even before we board the plane, as we get excited about making travel plans. But why does it make us so happy?

As people look for travel inspiration for a vacation that will offer them the most joy, searches for “dopamine travel” have increased by 4500% in the last month, according to Google trend data, while the TikTok hashtag #travelhappiness has 409k views. Go2Africa’s Justin Chapman, a travel expert, outlines the science behind “dopamine destinations” and travel’s ability to increase happiness.

Travel raises serotonin and dopamine levels.

Dopamine is one of the main neurotransmitters involved in experiencing joy and happiness. When we engage in enjoyable activities, our brain releases a chemical called dopamine, which contributes to motivation and feelings of well-being and provides a sense of excitement and fulfillment, according to Justin.

He continues, “A neurotransmitter called serotonin is essential for controlling mood, hunger, and sleep. As one of the primary ways that we raise serotonin production is by exposure to sunlight, our serotonin levels decrease as the days grow shorter in the winter.

What is a dopamine destination?

Traveling is especially good for activating the brain’s reward system. The best places to increase serotonin and dopamine levels are those that combine breathtaking scenery, thrilling activities, cultural immersion, longer daylight hours, and more sun exposure.

The brain’s reward system is especially stimulated by travel.

The definition of a “dopamine destination” varies based on the traveler and what will make them the happiest, but to make the biggest impression, pick a location with significantly more sunlight than you get at home, as well as opportunities for socializing and getting outside. Traveling may be quite helpful, whether you go for an all-inclusive African safari or just a long weekend in the sun, according to Justin.

It is possible to increase vitamin D.

Although it can be acquired through diet and supplements, the skin creates vitamin D on its own when exposed to sunlight.

“It’s critical for many processes, including mood regulation, and a deficiency has been connected to symptoms like depression, exhaustion, and trouble focusing,” explains Justin. Increased sunshine provides a vitamin D boost that enhances serotonin production, enhances sleep quality, and even lowers inflammation.

It is beneficial to have negative ions.

The majority of negative ions, which are molecules with an additional electron giving them a negative charge, are found in fresh air, especially close to bodies of water like waterfalls and oceans, as well as in woods.

Fresh air contains the highest concentration of negative ions, especially close to water features like waterfalls.

It has been demonstrated that negative ions raise serotonin, energy, immune system function, and lower stress levels. Negative ions may be to blame if you’ve ever relaxed on the beach while taking in the sound of breaking waves and feeling your stress melt away. says Justin.

Traveling fosters social interaction.

Social engagement boosts the release of serotonin and dopamine as well as oxytocin, popularly known as the “love hormone” and linked to feelings of attachment and bonding. To socialize without having to spend your entire vacation with people, plan some time for group activities if you would rather travel alone.

Take a group cooking lesson to learn how to prepare some regional cuisine that you can cook at home to extend the celebration, or go on a group tour of the neighborhood to take in as much of the local way of life as you can. Dopamine levels are also raised by novel encounters and pursuits that you would not be able to engage in at home, according to Justin.

Developing a relationship with wildlife

Spending time in nature has been demonstrated to lower stress levels and encourage relaxation. The beauty of nature can have a calming influence on the mind and body.

The mind and body can be soothed by the beauty of nature.

According to Justin, “Endorphins released from physical activity like walking and hiking also have a mood-boosting effect. Seeing animals in their natural habitat, such as gorilla safaris or a trek to see the Big 5, can boost dopamine and serotonin levels.”

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