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Travel May be the Secret to Happiness

Travel May be the Secret to Happiness Travel may be the secret to happiness. When was the last time you traveled? Was it a short road trip or the adventure of a lifetime? Or maybe you can’t remember?

That could be the reason you’re feeling down lately.

We all love the rush we get when we’re preparing for a vacation and we all know that getting away from the daily routine really rejuvenates our soul. Everyone in the family knows when it’s happing to me because that’s about all they hear is how “I’m jonesing for a road trip.”

The feeling is so universal that seems obvious. But is it scientific?

To find out a group of researchers from the University of Vermont, using Twitter carried out a study and found out that the tweets sent by people had a more positive message the farther away they were from home.

This study is done using a process called “Twitterology” which basically is a bunch of other studies that pool information from Twitter. It may sound new to you, but Twitter has been a gold mine of information especially for scholars in the sociology and psychology field. In this article on happiness and travel, the researchers concluded that travelling can indeed make you happy. Here’s a sampling of what they found…

The new study of the link between happiness and geographical location by Christopher Danforth and colleagues at Vermont takes advantage of the “garden hose” public-access feed for Twitter, which makes freely available a random 10% of all messages posted. This provided the researchers with four billion tweets from the year 2011 to analyse.

Since Danforth and colleagues were interested in how the mood expressed in the messages correlated with the location from which they were sent, they sifted through this immense data set to pick out those tweets that were accompanied by the precise latitude and longitude of the sender’s mobile phone – a facility optionally available for tweets, which uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) to locate the message’s origin within a 10m (32ft) radius. About 1% of the messages included this information, giving a data set of 37 million messages sent by more than 180,000 individuals from all over the planet.

However, identifying where the sender is situated doesn’t in itself reveal what the researchers wanted to know. They were interested in how the message content varied with distance from home. But how could they know where “home” was?

It turns out that positional information disclosed by our mobile phones reveals this pretty clearly. In 2008 a team of researchers in the US used the locations of mobile phones – recorded by phone companies whenever calls are made – to track the trajectories of 100,000 (anonymised) individuals. They found that, as we might imagine, we tend to return over and over again to certain places, especially our homes and workplaces, and only rarely venture very far from these locations.

In much the same way, Danforth and colleagues could figure out the most common locations for each individual in their survey, and how widely the person tended to roam from those places. They found that people generally have two such preferred locations, just a short distance apart, which they attributed to the home and workplace.

How, then, do the messages differ when individuals are at home, at work, or further away? To assess the “happiness” of a tweet, the Vermont team has developed what they call a hedonometer: an algorithm that searches the text for words implying a positive or enjoyable context (such as “new”, “great”, “coffee” and “lunch”) or a negative one (“no”, “not”, “hate”, “damn”, “bored”). On this basis the hedonometer assigns each message a happiness score.

The authors report that the average happiness score first declines slightly for distances of around 1 km (0.62 miles) – the kind of distance expected for a short commute to work – and then rises steadily with increasing distances of up to several thousand kilometres. What’s more, individuals with a larger typical roaming radius use happy words more often – a result that probably reflects the higher socioeconomic status of such jet-setting types.

So it seems we’re least happy at work and most happy when we are farthest from home. Continue reading here…

The studies concludes that our intuitive feelings have been confirmed and as this study implies, travelling is our way of re-energizing after the power drain of work and the routine of everyday life. As this study has proven, the happiness that travelling brings is genuine and long lasting.

So start saving up, pack your bags and get ready for your dream destination! Sure it cost, but the happiness and joy that travelling brings along with the health benefits, both physical as well as psychological, are commodities you just can’t buy.

Travel may be the secret to happiness and we would all do well to take advantage of that secret as often as we can.

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