Many of us schedule a postwinter getaway, but it’s the break in “spring break” that matters the most. Studies show that leisure activities including travel are associated with a lower risk of disease — including dementia — and an increase in happiness.
“It’s around this time [of year] when we need a boost to our morale and a break in our routines,” says Lori Gordon-Michaeli, LCSW, a therapist in Michigan. “The break also invigorates [us] and releases dopamine that activates us and gives us pep.”
And active travel, whether it’s looking for whales in Hawaii or navigating Tucson’s Sun Link Streetcar system, increases cognitive stimulation among other health benefits.
“The healthiest brains are ones that continue to learn,” says Stephan Quentzel, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “It’s important that we use our brain to learn new things. Travel often provides one of the best classrooms you can find.”
Quentzel, 59, keeps mentally and physically fit by traveling to bluegrass festivals and skiing in Crested Butte, Colorado. He credits outdoor recreation and live music with providing critical breaks to his daily routine.
“The joy we experience outside or listening to music has a value unto its own,” he says. “They are also proven antidepressants.”
Research published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics also says that visiting family and friends is especially beneficial to mental and physical health considering the limitations of the past few years.
“We celebrate renewal in spring. There’s great emotional reward in reestablishing old relationships with friends and family,” Quentzel says. “It also feels good to visit favorite destinations where you can renew old or try new activities.”
Gordon-Michaeli notes that traveling somewhere warm for spring break can increase levels of vitamin D. “That alone perks us up,” she says.
Here are three sunny destinations with unique cultural and physical activities to consider as you plan your spring break getaway.