Science Says Exploring Your Own Town Can Be Good for Your Mental Health
You may not be able to travel across the pond right now, but there are still some perks to wandering around your own city.
This story originally appeared on TravelandLeisure.com by Stacey Leasca.
Any frequent traveler can tell you that exploring a new place can bring about an immense sense of joy. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, our travel perimeters have gotten much, much smaller. But, as this study proves, it’s still important to get out and explore the world around, even if that means rediscovering what’s so special about your own hometown. (BTW, here's what Ubers will be like in a post-COVID world.)
In a new study published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers found that experiencing new things on a daily basis led to more positive emotions every day.
To come to this conclusion, the researchers tracked the moods and locations of 122 people in both New York City and Miami over the course of several months. The team analyzed their movements using GPS trackers and how those movements corresponded with moods by texting the participants each day and recording their moods. The researchers found those with a wider variety of daily experiences are more likely to feel happier.
"New and varied experiences are broadly beneficial for the brain and for humans in general," Aaron Heller, a co-author of the study and psychologist at the University of Miami, told Inverse. "Even if you may not tend towards exploring, there are probably benefits to doing so, regardless of your past experiences."
The experiences didn’t need to be large. Instead, the findings simply found that those who traveled around their own neighborhoods rather than sitting at home all day were happier. (See: How to Get the Mental Health Benefits of Travel Without Going Anywhere)
"The findings suggest that novelty is important, but experiential diversity is as well," co-author Catherine Hartley told Inverse. Those who go out to explore their own neighborhoods one day are also more likely to go out and explore the next, added Hartley. "We find that if I feel better today, I'm likely to move around and have more novel experiences and have more experiential diversity the following day, and vice versa. If I have more novel and diverse experiences today, I'm likely to feel better not only today but the next day."
As for how you can implement this feel-good travel strategy right now, it’s easy. All you need to do is make a list of experiences you’d like to try around your own hometown and give it a go. Make a list of all the coffee shops you’ve never tried for a caffeine crawl. Try out the community bike path you’ve been meaning to visit or go on a socially distant friend date in the park. Head out for a photography tour of your neighborhood and photograph the coolest gardens or doors you see. Whatever it is, make it unique and thrilling even if it’s just around the block for a daily dose of happiness.