4 Scientifically Proven and Surprising Ways to Help Overcome Homesickness

by  Tommy Burson | Oct 8, 2014
Traveler in Berlin
Traveler in Berlin / franz12/iStock

Homesickness comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s missing the coziness of your own bed. Other times it’s feeling lost without a loved one. And, occasionally, it’s a deep-rooted nostalgia for a functioning dryer. While homesickness certainly dampens your vacation, the obvious tips to solve your sadness -- like writing postcards, eating home-y meals, or sleeping with your significant other’s pajamas every night -- don't always keep the pillow dry. Here, a few unordinary, scientifically-backed, and totally effective methods to cure your bout of saudade.

Don't bother yourself with souvenirs, but buy for your friends and family. Sure, it’s nice to buy yourself those totally trendy, slightly overpriced Versace sunglasses in Milan, but studies indicate it won’t make you any happier. In fact, like your mother always told you, giving is better than receiving. We’re not talking about splurging on those 10 for $10 t-shirt specials, but actually dedicating time and effort to finding your loved ones the perfect souvenir from your vacation. You’ll be happier you did.

Behold the almighty power of B.O. Pictures may say 1,000 words, but smells infect the time. It may sound strange, but scent is an insanely powerful memory trigger, and our sense of smell is so powerful that we can whiff even a few drops of intense odorants like ethanol in an olympic-sized swimming pool. Impressive, eh? Now, it’s obvious to spritz your suitcase with your partner’s perfume or cologne, but it’s not as effective -- or as biological -- as the scent of sweat. Olfactory memory is more powerful than those images stored in your wallet.

Avoid Skype, avoid Facebook, and build new relationships. While we often think that signing onto Skype session or perusing Facebook can temporarily relieve our yearning for home, it actually can be one of the worst things y ou do. Why? They remind us of what we’re missing -- scientifically speaking, it makes homesickness worse. To combat this, branch out and create a your own travel network. Enjoy the company of new people and relish the possibility of new friendships, rather than reminiscing about the old.

Make yourself as uncomfortable as possible with new experiences. When your world becomes familiar, your brain stops processing information. That’s why you may forget a drive home from work, but you’ll remember the first time you tried escargot. Now -- cue the science lesson -- when you enjoy new experiences, your brain goes through a process called synaptic pruning, in which neurons develop new connections and prune away weak ones. In the above example, your brain remembers the escargot, but prunes away the fact that you may have indulged in your spouse’s favorite wine with the meal. In other words, embrace new experiences wholeheartedly, and you'll find yourself looking back on some fantastic memories in no time.

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