Need some time off? Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a few days to laze around on a pretty beach in the sun? Or even to have a couple of days for yourself, to let off some steam? Well, we’ve got good news: Turns out you don’t need to have an urgent excuse for a few days off work. Research shows that vacationing is great for our mental, physical, and even economic wellness — plus, it can be an excellent way to maintain a healthy work-life balance. We’re talking about boosting life satisfaction, bolstering productivity, and curbing stress!
Let’s take a look at the holistic benefits of recharging, traveling, and taking time off for vacations!
You may be surprised to learn how many vacation days you’re legally or contractually entitled to. You may be due a few annual days off, either because of stipulations in your contract or because of rights offered to you by your country, so it’s always good to check your available days of leave. Many countries and companies ensure that workers get a certain amount of paid time off every year, and knowing the facts can mean more holidays, more relaxation, and better wellness! Have a look at your government websites, and check with your Human Resources (HR) department!
Many people go unaware of their rights and lose out on a week’s worth of paid time off, on an annual basis. For instance, 768 million U.S. vacation days went unused in 2018! Can you imagine the amount of happiness and wellness you could be cultivating with a couple of days unwinding, dining, and enjoying yourself? If you’ve done the math, and it proves that you have more than a weekend’s work of time off, you can now sit and plan your dream vacation!
The Perfect Holiday
When we’re choosing holidays for ourselves, especially when we’re thinking of boosting our health, we need to ensure both the vacation type and its location are conducive to that. Research finds that well-planned, comfortable, warm, and sunny locations are optimal for health-related vacation outcomes. One study even found that tropical holidays can specifically promote positive health effects, such as reduced stress and improved physical wellbeing, and that these effects continued at least a month after people returned home, even showing a trend of better mental wellbeing in the longer term. Next time you’re thinking about booking a vacation, remember what the science says: Find the holiday that’s right for you, and if you’re uncertain, you can’t go wrong with a tropical destination!
But, what can holidays actually do for our holistic wellness?
The Many Mental Health Benefits!
In terms of our mental health, vacations have been scientifically proven to reduce stress, specifically work-related stress. Studies show that taking at least seven consecutive days off from work (at home or away) has immediate and extraordinary effects on perceived stress, strain, and overall wellbeing! Plus, these benefits have been categorized across the scientific community. For instance, a Wisconsin women’s health study found that vacations can reduce the symptoms of depression and tension, and have the additional effect of strengthening relationships! Science has also demonstrated across the board that more time off contributes to a reduced risk of dementia in those aged 65 and older!
And, just when you thought there surely couldn’t be more reasons to get that holiday booked, there are well-documented anticipatory benefits too. Scientists used a fancy piece of equipment known as an fMRI scanner to analyze people’s neural circuitry. They found that people looking forward to something positive activated their brains’ bilateral medial prefrontal cortex, which are regions of the brain associated with higher levels of wellbeing!
People tend to feel happier when in positive anticipation of something. This can apply to getting excited about simple purchases, events we’re looking forward to, or going on holidays!
Science tells us that more holidays empirically result in less job-related burnout. Burnout refers to negative health outcomes, such as anxiety, chronic exhaustion, and depression, that occur as a result of work-related stress and pressure. According to a UK poll, only 44% of female employees feel that their workplace has systems in place that can prevent burnout. Luckily for us, however, there are things that we can all do to mitigate and prevent feelings of burnout. Planning and taking vacations is one of them!
Taking a vacation doesn’t necessarily refer to jetting off to a Mediterranean beach. We can also try other strategies, such as ‘‘email vacations.’’ This means turning off notifications outside work hours, and designating specific times during work to look at emails, instead of checking them constantly throughout the day. This can reduce stress, and therefore reduce physical symptoms of stress, such as burnout!
The Phenomenal Physical Benefits!
In terms of how vacations serve our physical wellbeing, there are several different areas where we can feel the benefits. People who take more holidays are proven to have generally better heart health. Taking around five vacations every year has been shown to reduce the risk of what is known as metabolic syndrome. This is a medical term that includes a combination of related conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease! Preventing metabolic syndrome is one of the very best ways to improve our physical wellbeing.
To make matters more intriguing, people who holiday more have a statistically lower risk of all-cause mortality, which can refer to a huge array of different potential conditions that can shorten our average lifespans! And that’s not all!
The Splendid Spiritual Benefits!
For our spiritual wellbeing, time off can give us an excellent opportunity to practice mindfulness. This means living in the present, away from the troubles of normal life. Aside from that, travel is also deeply spiritual. Learning about other cultures and visiting places that are of spiritual importance can be incredibly life-affirming, and can sometimes alter our universal viewpoint in unexpected ways! Anyone who has been exposed to various cultures can tell you how travel can change you for the better, through providing us with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world we’re living in! Plus, it’s a great way to create worldly connections and memories that will stay with us for a lifetime!
Travel also has an incredible way of expanding our sense of creativity. Psychologists agree that the enhanced multicultural awareness goes hand-in-hand with seeing new and diverse places, which can foster all kinds of new creativity! Whether travel inspires, educates, or encourages us to reflect, the experiences we can find can be spiritually enlightening in truly incredible ways!
The Endearing Economic Benefits!
The list of holistic benefits doesn’t end here. This particular benefit may be surprising, and even seem a little counterintuitive, but science also shows that people who holiday more and are more well-rested tend to experience better economic health and be more successful in their careers! This is closely related to what we call a healthy work-life balance, which can improve our sense of fulfillment and boost productivity.
A good work-life balance means we’re working enough to support ourselves and feel a sense of achievement, while also giving ourselves the time and space to enjoy our home lives. All this is conducive to better wellbeing, and therefore better work performance. Time off for vacations (or staycations) is one of the best ways to promote a good balance between our work and home lives.
You may think that working more hours regularly would surely result in more productivity, but this can actually lead to more fatigue and less employee satisfaction, which can exhaust us. It’s always important to find a happy middle ground, and that’s what a work-life balance is all about!
Plus, studies show that employees that are conscious of their work-life balance (in that they take adequate time off and ask for extensions when needed) tend to be happier, and far less likely to quit!
Book That Vacation!
So what are you waiting for? Break out that calendar and think about when and where you’re going to take your next holiday. Think about how good the anticipation alone will feel, about how the time off will improve your overall wellness, and about how invigorating the spiritual side-perks of travelling can be!
To learn more about achieving a healthy work-life balance, check out what’s next on your journey!