Why taking to the waves can be very good for your health
The wellness space has become a colossal, ever-evolving one — and it’s only getting bigger. Everywhere we turn, there is someone new telling us how we can live a better, healthier life, and then providing us with product recommendations on how to achieve our wellness goals. Granted, many of these products are certainly good at giving us data about our efforts (think GPS trackers on our phones or wearable fitness devices). They also provide us with easy access to physical activities along with a much-needed level of convenience (virtual equipment such as Peloton and Mirror being just a few examples). But what if there is more to this topic than the eye can see?
The mainstream view of well-being has grown beyond the traditional, tired definitions that constrained wellness to neighborhood gym workouts or an aromatherapy massage at the local spa. But the trick for travelers has long been how to maintain some sense of the active, wellness-focused mindset that fits their day-to-day lifestyle, all while wandering the world. And while travel schedules are packed with activities, most hotel or resort properties have facilities that leave a lot to be desired.
But wellness success comes down to the simplest shift in mindset — getting into the habit of thinking through a wellness lens, so that each new experience feeds your body and soul. The Global Wellness Institute, a non-profit organization that is at the leading edge of wellness research, has helped to shape today’s definition of the category, saying wellness is “the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” That definition seems fairly broad and maybe too simple, but there are plenty of things we can do while we travel that can contribute to mental and physical well-being if we’d only let them.
Take cruise travel, which is a relaxed, carefree way to see the world. The ship moves gently from place to place, freeing all onboard from many of the hassles that come with other forms of travel — no traffic jams or airport security lines to sour the experience. And yet other, less obvious aspects of cruise travel can help contribute to a greater sense of health and happiness.
A cruise can be an incubator for many of the ideas now being recognized in the broader sense of wellness. They’re usually a highly social environment where people actually have face-to-face conversations regularly — forging relationships at meals, over coffee or a drink, or during an excursion ashore. According to wellness expert Dr. Andrew Weil, human beings are highly social, communal animals, meant to live in families and communities. When we lack those connections, we suffer.
Or take sleep: Human beings have had a longstanding love affair with sleep and, contrary to the recommendations of countless studies on the subject, most of us don’t get nearly enough. There is something so divinely fulfilling about a nap or full night’s sleep on a ship, where the gentle rocking motion is almost transcendent, taking us back to our earliest days as a child. The sound of waves lapping outside as we drift off creates a blanket of white noise that we can comfortably take refuge under as we dream of the adventures that the following day holds.
Nature has existed since, well, forever, and deck of a ship has a view of the natural environment that is constantly changing: mountains, waterfalls, beaches, and more. Scientists and researchers have recently documented how spending time in nature positively impacts people’s physical and mental health, from lowering stress and blood pressure to increasing life expectancy. So much so that more and more doctors are now actually prescribing nature in a recommended dosage of two hours a week. People who spend 120 minutes outdoors each week are reportedly in significantly better health and have a greater sense of well-being than those who don’t.
Above all, ships can be a great way to cure yourself of nomophobia (no-mobile-phone phobia), a very real term for the very common fear of not being able to use your cell phone or other smart device. There’s something freeing about putting your phone down. Sure, take your photos — but post them later. Ignore those text messages for now. Pick your head up, look around, listen, and enjoy your surroundings. After all, you’ll remember the way you felt appreciating new, fascinating places much better if you look at them through your own eyes as opposed to a camera lens.
Maybe some of us are just ahead of our time, fully embracing the absolute glory that comes from the simpler things in life, those full of benefit and meaning. But then again, maybe not. Perhaps this is one of those cases where everything old is new again.
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