Between work and family obligations, everyday life can be incredibly stressful, particularly in this age of constant connectivity. Sometimes, the best solution is to get away from it all, even if only for a week or two. Shockingly, a report from Skift indicates that over forty percent of Americans did not take any vacation days in 2014. Many avoided vacation for fear of workplace repercussions. Those who neglect vacation may do so for noble reasons, but by remaining at home year-round, they are actually hampering their workplace productivity — and missing out on the following health benefits:
1. Better Mental Health
From the slopes of the Alps to the sandy beaches of Cabo San Lucas, a variety of settings lends vacationers a much-needed sense of peace and wellbeing. It is not surprising, then, that a University of Pittsburgh Mind-Body Center study concluded that survey participants who spent time on vacation experienced more frequent positive emotions and fewer negative feelings. More surprising, however, is just how effectively vacations can ward off depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Vacation may not offer a long-term cure, but it can provide a brief reprieve from stress and feelings of self-doubt. During the winter months, a warm weather vacation can quickly ease crippling Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) by delivering the sunlight that sufferers lack while holed up inside.
2. Heart Health
Better mental health is an expected side effect of ample vacation time, but vacations also have a notable effect on heart health. According to the Framingham Heart Study, women who take vacations fewer than once every six years are nearly eight times as likely to suffer coronary heart disease as those who get out of town twice a year or more. Skipping even one year’s worth of vacations can lead to a significant increase in heart attack risk, even for those who otherwise travel frequently. Purported reasons for the connection between vacation and heart health vary, but many researchers believe that stress reduction is a chief factor.
3. Establishing Better Health Habits
For every person who gorges on buffets while abroad, there’s another who establishes a much healthier routine while away from typical workday stressors. Thus, while vacations are often thought of as inevitable conduits to weight gain, they don’t have to be. The secret is in planning the type of vacation that will lead to a healthier lifestyle upon returning home. For this reason, vacationers increasingly favor health-based resorts that offer an array of physical activities, as well as nutritious, low-calorie menus. Other vacationers stay at traditional resorts and hotels, but make a commitment to moving their bodies every day. Upon realizing how good it feels to exercise, these tourists renew their commitment to previously abandoned fitness regimens.
4. Catching Up On Sleep
Vacation is the perfect time to establish a better diet or fitness regimen, but sleep is just as important. Americans are notoriously short on sleep, and the result is weight gain, stress, and in some cases, suicidal thoughts. Thankfully, vacations give hard working professionals the opportunity to get caught up on sleep. Comfortable beds, reduced stress, and minimal obligations all promote a restful night’s sleep, and as a result, many vacationers get a full eight hours of shut-eye each night while they’re away, compared to the fewer than seven hours that four in ten Americans enjoy, according to Gallup.
From heart health to mental health, a simple vacation can lead to huge gains in personal vitality. There is no reason to feel ashamed for taking the occasional day off; just think of it as a prescription for better health and greater workplace productivity.