I came across an article the other day that caught my eye called “Advice From a 104-Year Old Doctor.” Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara of Tokyo certainly had some interesting things to say, but the thing that struck me most was this:
“Energy comes from feeling good, not from eating well or sleeping a lot.”
As strangely as that idea strikes the Western mind at first glance, I would be inclined to give a 104-year old doctor a lot of credibility on this subject. And even beyond his authority to speak on health, I can see a lot of truth in his statement. Come to think of it, I have found it to be true in my own experience. And it is one more piece of evidence that supports my pet theory that you will most likely live longer if you travel.
Usually people think that you should try to be healthy so you can be happy. But what if you turn it around? But what if being happy was the key to energy and health?
Yes, of course, you still need to eat and sleep. But I think the doctor is onto something here.
Peak Moments Versus Nothing Moments
I have often been struck by the huge difference in the experience of time when I am locked into office routines for a week versus when I am on a journey of discovery for the same period of time.
Those working weeks fly by while I am immersed in repetitive routines, focused only on trying to knock the next thing off my “To Do” list, and then when that one is done, moving on to the next. Days flip by with nothing to distinguish one from the other.
It’s the feeling that every day is the same day again, just starting over – Oh no it’s Monday! Ah great it’s Friday! Monday-Friday-Monday-Friday… Sometimes I feel like I’m reaching endlessly for the brass ring, but only flailing my arms.
The Euphoria of Discovery
Now hold that image and contrast it to a day when you are traveling on a journey of discovery. When you are on a trip and everything is new and fascinating, issues with energy rarely come up. Your senses are sharpened. You are engaged. Your fascination propels you.
I know that when I am happy, energy is not an issue. It’s as if my spirit has wings. But if something depresses me it can be hard to move. When you are intensely interested in something, it charges you. It takes your mind off your problems. Being happy can change your state of health instantly.
Dr. Deepak Chopra said he has seen people age 20 years in the instant they are told they have cancer. Nothing happened in that moment but a change of mind. Just the thought of it is crushing to the spirit.
In his book Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins claimed he cured himself of ankylosing spondylitis, a deadly and usually incurable disease, by holing up in a hotel room and watching comedy movies incessantly. He laughed himself to health.
The energy you feel when you are happy is the same energy that promotes good health, healing and well being.
Stretching the Dimension of Time
A week traveling may measure the same on a clock as a week at the office, but in my experience that week of traveling is much greater, longer and richer. And it stays vivid in my memory, ready for me to return to it over and over, something my routine moments never do.
Regardless of what a clock or calendar says, my own experience is what really counts to me. And the time I spend traveling feels a lot longer than the time I spend in dull routines.
When I am traveling and fully engaged, I live more in the same amount of time. So there is that sense in which traveling helps you live longer. But there is now a great deal of scientific research that shows that the health benefits of travel are clearly measurable, and that travel can actually help you to live longer in terms of calendar time.
The Global Coalition on Aging produced a paper called “Destination: Healthy Aging” on the health benefits of travel. It was a meta-study that pulled together the results of many different scientific studies from disparate sources that measured the health benefits of travel. A great variety of data led to one clear conclusion: Travel is good for your health.
Here are a few of the findings:
- Researchers found that “vacationing is a restorative behavior with an independent positive effect on health.”
- Women who vacationed only once in six years or less often, had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year.
- Women who don’t travel are twice as likely to be afflicted with depression as those who do.
- Ninety-three percent of people feel happier after a vacation, 77 percent believe their health improves after a vacation and 80 percent believe that vacations result in greater productivity, energy and focus.
- After vacationing only a day or two, 89 percent of people find that they are able to relax and forget about work stress. Group travel builds social ties, help nurture interest in life-long learning.
- Travel lowers the risks of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, depression levels and other ailments.
- Conversely, the effects of physical inactivity are deleterious to health, and physical inactivity accounts for more than 3 million deaths per year.
And There’s More…
The U.S. Travel Association launched a multi-year, multimillion dollar study called Travel Effect that bolstered the Global Coalition on Aging conclusions in many ways. Early findings clearly show that people who take time off work are more productive, have higher morale and have less stress and burnout than those who don’t.
Roger Dow, the president and CEO of the US Travel Association, said, “What we’ve long known anecdotally, we will now prove through authoritative research: travel has a positive effect on health, relationships, business performance and the well-being of communities.”
It goes on and on, there is plenty of scientific data to back it up. Travel helps you be healthier, happier and live longer. It’s undeniable.
Longer, Truer, Deeper
It is not really so mysterious. Travel reduces stress, and stress is one of the greatest threats to health. As the good doctor pointed out, happiness is good for your health.
The science proves it, but I can confirm it by my own experience. Travel helps you live longer and better. It expands life not only in the length of time, but in the richness of your time.
So you can cast aside any guilt you may have for having a good time. Happiness is good for your health. And you owe it to yourself, your loved ones, your descendants and the world to stay as healthy as possible as long as possible.
So there it is. There is your justification to go ahead and take the best trip of your life.
Your humble reporter,
A. Colin Treadwell