Why taking a vacation could save your life
American workers are known to be workaholics. Since March 2020, an overwhelming majority of American employees have shortened, postponed or canceled their vacations, according to a survey. Another recent study found that 26% of respondents had never taken two weeks of vacation at a time. And the Center for Economic and Policy Research has gone so far as to call the United States a âNo Vacation Nationâ.
But leaving vacations on the table takes its toll on employees. A recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that 745,000 people died in 2016 from heart disease and stroke due to long hours and said the trend could worsen due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Research found that working 55 or more hours per week was associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease than a 35% work week. at 40 hours.
Taking a vacation is essential to the survival of employees. Indeed, absences from work are an integral part of well-being, sustained productivity and high performance. Here are a few more reasons to start planning your next getaway.
Vacation time increases mindfulness
Going on vacation makes you feel more present and energized. âWhen we travel, we usually break our normal routine,â says Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds. This means that we cannot operate on autopilot. âThis reduced familiarity is an opportunity for most people to be more fully present, to really wake up,â he says. According to another study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, meditation and vacations seem to have overlapping effects. The report found that meditation exercises and vacations were associated with higher levels of well-being and increased focus.
Vacation time improves heart health
Taking regular vacations could help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome – a set of health problems including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess belly fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels. All of these symptoms increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. In one study, researchers found that those who went on vacation more frequently were less likely to meet the criteria for a diagnosis of. metabolic syndrome. In particular, the risk has decreased by a quarter each time additional vacation is taken. Another nine-year study followed more than 12,000 middle-aged men at high risk for heart disease. Ultimately, those who took more vacations per year were less likely to die from any cause, including heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.
Holidays reduce stress
Stress increases the levels of certain hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. In the short term, this can be helpful, triggering a âfight or flightâ response that helps you deal with immediate threats. But over time, chronic stress can increase your risk for health problems, including heart disease. A study published by the American Psychological Association found that time off helps reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments they associate with anxiety. Are you planning to go to the beach or go camping this summer? Another scientific report points out that spending at least 120 minutes per week in natural environments (like parks, woods, and beaches) is associated with good health and well-being.
Vacation time boosts intelligence
Taking time off improves the ability to learn. When your brain is completely relaxed, it consolidates knowledge and intellectual capacities. “Neuroscience is so clear, thanks to PET and MRI, that the ‘aha’ moment comes when you’re in a relaxed state of mind,” says Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: work, love and play when no one has time. That’s why you have your best ideas for a walk, in the shower or on vacation. Adam Galinsky, professor and president of the management division at Columbia Business School, has conducted numerous studies linking travel and creativity. âForeign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and the depth and integrity of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,â said Galinsky. In one study, Galinsky found that creative directors of high-end fashion houses who lived overseas produced more consistently creative fashion lines, as determined by a panel of professional journalists and independent buyers. âThe key and critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion and adaptation,â says Galinsky. Someone who lives abroad and does not engage with the local culture is likely to benefit less from a creative impetus than someone who travels abroad and genuinely engages in the local environment. “
Vacation time improves sleep
Restless nights are a common complaint, often due to the fact that we have too much on our mind. Researchers say absences from work can help interrupt habits that disrupt sleep, like working late at night or checking your cell phone before bed. Another reason your sleep improves while on vacation and lasts longer after you return home is that a new bed helps you dissociate yourself from your negative sleep patterns at home. A study by New Zealand Air asked participants on vacation to wear a wrist device to monitor their sleep quality from three days before their vacation until three days after their return. They also kept a sleep diary and were measured for reaction times before, during and after their trip. The researchers found that after two to three days of vacation, participants had an average of an hour more of good-quality sleep and saw an 80% improvement in their reaction time. When they returned home, they were still sleeping almost an hour more and their reaction time was 30% to 40% faster than before the trip.
Don’t be a vacation slacker. Time off is linked to a host of benefits, including better sleep and better mental health. So what are you waiting for? Put the guilt aside and plan your next vacation. Your body and mind will thank you.
Do you feel stuck and dissatisfied in your career? Download my free guide: 5 signs it’s time for a bold career change!