Why Taking a Vacation is Essential to Your Physical & Mental Health

Did you know that taking time off work has long-lasting physical and psychological health benefits?

People who take vacations, for example, report:

  • lower stress rates
  • a more positive outlook on life
  • a higher level of motivation to achieve their goal
  • and they are happier.

Yet, research shows that Americans work longer hours, retire later, and take less vacation days compared to other industrialized countries.

I know that many of you can relate. Maybe you are worried that you will get behind in your work or feel less productive. You may have people relying on you and due dates to meet and you don’t want to let anyone down, including yourself. With these many concerns, taking time off can seem to create more stress.

But studies show that this is not true. People who take time off work are actually more focused, engaged, and productive. This is because taking time away from work can reduce the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. This hormone is responsible for stress, anxiety and depression and can wreak havoc on our bodies, cognitive abilities (like thinking and remembering), and peace of mind.

It seems Dolly Parton knew a thing or two when she said:

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

Here are a few more reasons why taking time to go on a vacation is a good idea:

  • The New York Times reported that those who go on a on a vacation every two years have a lower incidence of coronary heart disease compared to those who only take a vacation every six years.
  • Those who take time for regular trips have a 69.4 score on the Gallup-Heathway’s Well-Being index compared to a 51.4 who traveled less frequently. In addition, people reported that three days after their vacation, their mood had improved, they could sleep better and had less physical pain than before their trip. And what may be surprising to many, these benefits lasted as long as five weeks after their vacation. Although there are some studies that say it lasts three weeks.
  • With this positive mood comes more mental power. In fact, employees reported feeling more focused and being more productive after a holiday from work. Why? Chronic stress can actually inhibit the goal centered and memory parts of the brain.
  • I love this one. The Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacations reported being more satisfied with their marriages.
  • And when it comes to job burnout, it’s a no-brainer. Not surprisingly, employees who take time to travel experience less fatigue and exhaustion. They are more rested, creative and content.
  • Last but not least, studies show that it is the actual planning of a vacation that gives one an extra happiness boost – sometimes as much as eight weeks before – and not just the vacation itself.

By the way, you don’t have to fly off to some exotic Island to reap the benefits of a vacation. A “staycation” can have the same positive results.

Now that you know the facts about vacation, staycation, and productivity, I recommend you put as much importance on your vacation time as you do your annual doctor’s check-up. For your physical and mental health are simply not up for negotiation!

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