Between the stress of work and everyday life, it’s not unusual that most people feel the need to book a vacation to unwind. Research backs up the benefits of vacationing for mental health, from reducing your risk of heart attack to enhancing productivity, improving sleep and decreasing anxiety.
Consider the type of vacations you need for the best healing experience. Do you enjoy nature? Are you a foodie? Would you prefer to go off the grid and disconnect from others? Self-care looks different for everyone. Here are five ideas for getaways to boost your mental health.
1. Nature Lovers
Studies show it only takes spending 10 minutes outside – either sitting or walking – to reap nature’s many psychological benefits. Thankfully, there are several retreats you can embark on by the beach, in the woods or the mountains.
Soak in the hot springs and natural mud baths in Dominica or airboat through the Florida Everglades. If the mountains are calling you, rent a cabin in the Poconos for a weekend or take an extended backpacking trip in the Swiss Alps.
The San Juan Islands in Washington State also offer ample nature-inspired activities, such as kayaking, whale watching excursions and an afternoon at the relaxing Pelindaba Lavender Farm. Studies have long suggested lavender’s linalool has stress-relieving effects on humans.
2. Yoga Retreats
Yoga’s focus on movement and alignment helps connect the physical body with the mind and spirit. The practice is known for reducing anxiety and depression while also strengthening cognition, memory, awareness and concentration.
Worldwide, yoga retreats deliver restorative classes and healthy, plant-based cuisine to deepen human connection and greater relaxation.
In the United States, you can book vacations at several yoga retreats, including the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, North Carolina, or the infamous Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. For people interested in international travel, Ubud, Bali, is a hub for countless transformative yoga experiences.
3. Animal Therapy Trips
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), human-animal interactions reduce cortisol levels and blood pressure, in addition to helping people beat loneliness and feel more supported. Of course, some of the best vacations to benefit your mental health include a dose of animal therapy.
At Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, the Potcake Place is a dog rescue charity whose mission is to find the “potcake” dogs of Turks and Caicos loving homes. The nickname came from residents feeding homeless dogs from potcakes – their cooking pots. Visitors can visit Popcake Place or adopt them for the day for island adventures. You may even find yourself bringing one home with you.
Another Caribbean vacation to get your animal fix is in Exumas, Bahamas. Pig Beach is home to about 30 to 40 pigs and is located on Big Major Cay. While it’s unclear how the pigs arrived there, visitors flock to the beach to swim with, pet and feed the friendly pigs.
4. Foodie Adventures
Food lovers will rejoice while vacationing different parts of the world. Each region offers unique delicacies and cuisines to satisfy your taste buds.
A trip to Greece provides fresh seafood, olives, hummus, greens and seasonal produce – cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet. Meanwhile, Italy is its own culinary experience with delicious pasta dishes, fresh tomatoes and lemons.
If you’re a coffee drinker, Costa Rica has eight regions that harvest the best coffee globally. According to a recent study commissioned by the U.S. National Coffee Association (NCA), people who drink two cups of coffee a day have a 32% lower risk of self-reported depression. The study also highlighted other mental health benefits, including reduced inflammation, lower oxidative stress and better gut health.
5. Unplugged Vacations
A 2021 survey found that Americans spend approximately five to six hours per day on their smartphones. Unfortunately, excessive phone use is associated with poor mental health and less sleep and cognitive, medical and emotional decline.
Thankfully, there are several phone-free destinations you can consider booking your next trip to. Although unplugging may sound scary, it could be necessary for boosting your mental well-being. Step away from emails, phone calls and app notifications and allow yourself to become immersed in your travel experiences.
Currently, only 50% of Yellowstone National Park has cell phone service, encouraging you to interact with the landscape more. Additionally, the remote Quirpon Island in Newfoundland, Canada, lacks cell coverage or internet connection.
Other phone-free destinations for you to reserve include:
- Eremito—a remote monastery in the Umbrian valleys of Italy
- Denali National Park in Alaska
- Jade Mountain Resort in St. Lucia
- Cloud Forest of Nicaragua
- Petit St. Vincent—a private island in the Grenadines
- Lake Placid Lodge in Lake Placid, New York
Several resorts lack televisions, internet and other forms of technology as part of their accommodations. Enjoy the quiet time and a sense of renewal with a digital detox destination. You’ll probably find you won’t miss staying connected to the outside world anyway.
Making Travel Plans For Better Mental Health
When planning your next trip, keep your mental health in mind. If you’ve been feeling anxious or depressed lately, you might require a special vacation for optimal rest and relaxation. Consider one of these five vacations to boost your emotional wellbeing and begin feeling yourself again.