In this day of crowded skies and flash seat sale to destinations across the globe, people are traveling a lot – often more than they would like. This is especially true for business travelers and Baby Boomers. But for all that traveling studies show subtle rewards for it in the form of boosted productivity and heightened levels of serotonin – otherwise known as the happiness hormone. But too much travel may also be kicking that overworked immune system to the curb.
Recent research, however, shows the happiness ratio still out paces the harm factor and, in fact, it is possible to have your happiness and your health too while burning up miles on the road.
AARP Travel released the results of its latest study last week that endeavors to examine the health and wellness benefits of leisure travel. According to these findings, those who travel report better emotional and physical health and improved relationships and productivity at work. Overall well-being is one of the biggest advantages of travel, with the benefits starting during the initial travel planning phase and extending well beyond the trip. The longest lasting travel benefit reported is improved relationships with loved ones – lasting six weeks on average.
The study shows four out five boomers experience at least one health benefit during a trip and 73 percent notice at least one health benefit post-trip. By far, boomers get the most health benefits during the trip (56 percent). One in five indicate they experience health benefits before, during, and after the trip equally. Millennials experience a far bigger benefit from planning a trip (23 percent) than boomers (6 percent).
- Of the 73 percent of boomers who notice health benefits post-trip, the most unexpected benefits are better sleep (51 percent), more energy (50 percent) and increased productivity (46 percent).
- Most boomers credit their travel health benefits simply to relaxation and fun (72 percent) and to spending quality time with loved ones (67 percent).
- The health benefits that most improve during a trip include improved emotional well-being (54 percent), connection with loved ones (52 percent), amount of energy (35 percent), intellectual curiosity (34 percent) and mental clarity (30 percent).
Yet, studies indicate that forty-three percent of Americans admit they frequently feel guilty for relaxing. Ninety-one percent of working Americans say they look forward to sleeping while on vacation, but it appears that the stresses of everyday life are getting in the way of a good night’s sleep on vacation. According to results of a survey by Wakefield Research for Princess Cruises, Americans aren’t carving out enough time in their days for sleep or relaxation, with approximately half (49%) reporting they aren’t getting the sleep they need and 78% saying they don’t set aside time to relax each day.
Rather than getting the most enjoyment out of their vacation, working adults take an average of four days off per year just to catch up on sleep. Whether it’s a full vacation or even just a few minutes of downtime, learning how to carve out more “me” time is clearly becoming a necessity. Even going on vacation doesn’t guarantee better rest, according to the survey, which found that 63% of Americans frequently struggle to get a good night’s sleep while on vacation.
For those who are not retired and who must travel frequently, lack of sleep is just one of the problems faced on the road. The impact of changes in time zones can be quite challenging, even for the most hardened of road warriors. It only takes a one-hour shift in time to throw the body’s internal clock off for a week, says John Ayo, author of Travel Balance. He spoke at last week’s IMEX America conference to meeting planners, destination managers and sales teams about staying healthy while traveling.
Fatigue, confusion and lack of awareness…not to mention drowsiness, are the symptoms showing that something needs to be fixed, says Ayo. That is not good news for those who have to be at their peak to handle all the moving parts at a conference requiring travel.
He offered these hacks to keep the body in optimal shape away from home.
- Get noise cancelling headphones … and use them. If you need to sleep on a plane or even in a hotel room where there is noise, these items can be a lifesaver. Plus, they can serve as headphones through which meditation programs can stream.
- Register for TSA Pre. Security hang-ups at airports are major stress points for which this action can be an easy fix. Also, be aware when handling those buckets into which travelers dump their carry-ons and electronics. They are handled by thousands of people every day, possibly one of the most germ-infested items (next to an airline tray table) one can touch while traveling. A purse-size anti-bacterial used to cleanse hands once through the line becomes an easy solution. Finally, those who travel frequently may want to opt out for those radiation scans. The exposure adds up.
- Planning ahead reduces stress – all the things that can go wrong will not need to go wrong with a little forward thinking. Ahhhs await.
- Time zone your body when boarding the plane. If it is 6pm at departure but 2am at the destination, set the watch accordingly, skip dinner, go to sleep, wake up six hours later and have breakfast if possible. It takes the body approximately 24 hours to adjust to each time zone. Those who are crossing the world may want to consider light therapy glasses that help the body to produce needed melatonin. Other supplements and herbs, such as probiotics, lavender drops and melatonin pills can also help with sleep.
- Stay awake. A big mistake travelers often make is taking a quick (often lasting hours) nap when they arrive at their destination. It’s possible to get away with a one-hour nap if arrival at the hotel is before 11 a.m. But to get into optimal sleep shape it is critical to stay awake as much as possible – until at least 9 pm at the time of destination for the first two nights.
- Hydrate often. Dehydration is one of the biggest causes of jet lag. Stay away from sugars, carbs, starches and dairy; do not drink water during meals (drink before the meal); eat salads before main entrees, not after; consider adding vitamins and supplements to a daily intake regimen.
- Stay active and do a little earthing. Exercise will help the body stay energized during the day and sink into sleep at night. If at all possible, find a way to slip into a natural setting – if only the grass around the pool – and touch the earth.
“One of the best ways to sync your body to the destination time zone is to get bare feet on earth in that destination. This can be challenging if you are in a big city, but if you can find a park, and walk around barefoot for just 20 minutes, it will help your body reduce jet lag. The main way it does this is by helping your body release the static charge that gets built up while on the airplane, which allows your cells to recharge with energy,” says Ayo. “It’s a simple action. We have all taken off our shoes and run through the grass as kids. Make time to do this again. It can do wonders for your body while you are traveling.”
This article was first published in Multibriefs.