We often think of diet and exercise as the cornerstones of good health, but I think that travel is another essential component of good physical and mental health. Taking a break from your daily routine and responsibilities helps your body recover from stress. This is not only common sense — studies have shown that people who take more vacations tend to live longer, sleep better, and have less heart disease than those who take fewer vacations. It doesn’t need to be an exotic month-long trip. Even three-day weekends have been shown to improve sleep and mood. The key is to take it easy on yourself; instead of scheduling back-to-back activities, try to include some downtime on your next day off. Going for a hike, taking a long walk, or simply wandering the streets can stretch your mind. A recent study in the journal Psychological Science showed that letting your mind wander can stimulate creativity and your ability to solve problems.
I recently travelled to Asia to give a presentation, and tried to follow my own advice. After spending the first part of my trip in meetings, I decided to give myself a break. In the past, I would have checked off a list of tourist sights and and dutifully taken pictures of everything. This time, I made it a point to wander the streets and alleys of Shanghai and Taipei, with no particular agenda other than to soak up the sights , sounds, and (pungent) smells that are so different from my usual environment in Los Angeles. I also spent an entire day with my Great Aunt, drinking tea and chatting in my native Taiwanese. On my last day, I cruised the local drugstores and cosmetics counters to see new products that have yet to come to the US. After these last 10 days, my mind is buzzing with ideas for new projects. Stay tuned for upcoming articles about new products and procedures!