Vacation Your Way to a Better Health
By : Mandy Erickson
Published March 7, 2018
Vacation your way to better health
They’re expensive! They’ll pull me away from work! I’ll get behind! I’ll miss too many days at the gym!
I’m talking about vacations, and how neurotic some people can be about taking one.
It’s true: Some of us have an incredibly hard time taking time off, especially the self-employed among us who don’t have mandated vacation days or vacation pay.
Truth is, that’s a lot of us. In the U.S., there are no mandated vacation days for employees, and one-quarter of Americans don’t get paid vacations at all. This is’t the case elsewhere in the world: People in the UK get 28 days off a year, a number that’s similar in many other western European countries, and in Australia and New Zealand, they get 20. (Note, those numbers don’t even include public holidays). Even China gives their people five mandated vacation days!
In North America, we have this attitude that we always need to be working, producing, working, producing. Sometimes, we even lie about how productive and busy we are. Think about it. How many times have you bumped into someone you haven’t seen in a while and had a conversation like this:
“How’s it going? Haven’t seen you in ages.”
“I”m good. Just super busy these days. You?”
“Yeah, crazy busy.”
Being perceived as lazy or not busy enough in North America is almost sinful!
But here’s why you SHOULD forget all that nonsense and unplug and take a real vacation—a full-stop rest—at least a couple times a year:
A well-known 1992 study—the Framingham Heart Study (https://www.framinghamheartstudy.org/)—which has since been backed up by other studies, showed that men who don’t take vacations are 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack, while women’s chances of a heart attack increases by 50 percent! These numbers are still true when we consider other health factors, such as diabetes, smoking, income levels and obesity.
No surprise here, but other research has found vacations to be beneficial for mental health. Those who never take time off work are more prone not only to becoming physical ill and stressed out, but also anxious and depressed.
Specifically, a study that looked at 1,500 women in Wisconsin determined that those who went on vacation less frequently—just once every two years—were more likely to suffer from depression and stress than those who vacationed at least twice a year. Similar findings have been discovered in various other studies on the topic.
Common sense again, but this study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2837207/) showed that people who return from vacation are much happier. This happiness then spreads to those around them, making an overall happier experience for all.
You know the old saying: “If you need something done, give it to someone whose busy!” It doesn’t make sense, but the less time we have to do something, the harder we tend to try to finish it. The same is true when you’re preparing to go on vacation. People tend to up their productivity in preparation for their departure, often getting more done in two days than they normally would in a week.
One study done at a professional services firm actually found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their performance rating improved by 8 percent!
Poor sleep often stems from having too much going on in our heads. Then not sleeping well stresses us out and before we know it bad sleep is affecting our focus, alertness, memory and overall quality of life. Research shows that vacations help interrupt this pattern of disrupted sleep, essentially helping your sleep pattern return to normal, which then also helps you sleep better once you get back to your regular routine.
Work to live, or live to work? You decide.