Hi, I’m Dr. Jenny Yu, Healthline’s Medical Expert and Lonely Planet Travel Health Expert. Welcome to my column, where each week I’ll share stories and insights, experiences and opportunities, and perspectives on how you can take the "well" traveled path in your journeys.
As we enter the second month of 2022 and year 2 of this pandemic, we are all individually questioning - what's next? For some of us, the uncertainty and information overload we've experienced, for an extended period of time, has overwhelmed our processing capacity and led to anxiety and confusion. This traumatic insult to our mental wellbeing takes time to heal and regenerate - and certainly everyone’s pace in this will look vastly different.
For me, I like to look for positive solutions in times of uncertainty. Call it my zen, but the principles are based on positive psychology - the science of how to enhance the human experience. Some of the main topics focus on meaning, coping, self-compassion, courage, gratitude, positive emotions and high-quality connections.
The application of positive psychology impacts every facet of our lives - education, health, organizations, etc. How do we mix a dose of positive psychology for exiting out of this pandemic? Some are searching for meaning and purpose, some are looking for improved emotional connections, while others are seeking courage.
My exit strategy isn’t some grand transformative experience, but the cumulation of small steps toward finding positive emotions and connections - travel is part of that for me. Ninety-seven percent of respondents to a recent survey reported that having a trip planned makes them happier. I have several short, medium and long trips spread across the next couple of weeks, and that alone feels restorative to me. Another aspect of travel is the "stretch" capacity that leads to happiness in the reward center of our brain. What makes you want to go surfing while in Costa Rica? Why the urge to take a cooking class while in Provence when you don’t really cook? When we are engaged in novel experiences, it leads to a better mood, and a better mood motivates us to stretch our capacity to try new things. Part of my search for connections is by learning from others while I am traveling - impromptu conversations give me new perspectives, stretching me to grow culturally.
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We often put much emphasis on our physical well-being - hydration, fitness, nutrition. Yet at times, it is our mental wellbeing that needs care. Whatever stage you are in for exiting this pandemic - it is ok to crawl, walk or run - there is no playbook here. To quote Ethan Kross from his recent book Chatter: "The mind is flexible if we know how to bend it." What will you do?
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