Special Report

12 Reasons Why You Should Take a Vacation for Your Health

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Midsummer — it’s time to head to the beach or the cabin at the lake or Nevada’s cavernous air-conditioned casinos. The sad truth is, too many people are not going anywhere. They’re not leaving their job, regardless of the season or the wealth of tempting options for travel and relaxation. Although about three-quarters of U.S. workers accrue vacation time, more than half don’t use all of the days allotted to them each year.

This is a huge mistake considering how beneficial vacations are. There are lots of anecdotal reports of time off delivering health benefits, including relief from maladies such as repetitive stress injuries, aches and pains, psychosomatic illness, and nocturnal bruxism. Travel has been cited as a sure path to such all-American goals as weight loss and improved love life, both of which can impact health and well-being.

There’s also solid, research-supported evidence that regular vacations can have a positive effect on at least a dozen conditions, including heart health, stress, and depression. Even planning for out-of-the-office time can deliver a shot of happiness that can last for weeks. And if you’re worries about “going back to normal” after being off, don’t be — here are 16 ways to regain your focus after a vacation

There is a catch, of course. To get the most health benefits from a vacation you have to unplug — really get away from the job. Tell the boss you’re unreachable. Don’t even talk about the job.

Even if you’re part of the gig economy with no paid vacation, taking time off the job is well worth it. It’s amazing how much the break can clear your mind. A mind constantly preoccupied with deadlines isn’t necessarily a creative one. Freeing yourself from the hamster wheel of routine will reset your efficiency and freshness.

After all, who wants to end up making a final statement a la “The Simpsons”  C. Montgomery Burns: “I guess this is the end. I just wish I’d spent more time at the office.”

Click here to read about 12 reasons why you should take a vacation for your health.

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1. Give your back a break

It’s easy to feel as if you’re stuck in a rut when you work every day. And in certain ways, you may be right, as in our body mechanics on the job and while commuting. Sitting — at a workstation, on public transportation, or in the car — can stress the back and the neck and put pressure on the spine. Leaning forward while sitting — sound familiar? — increases stress on spinal discs. Your back will likely thank you if your vacation includes a change of position from the same ol’ same ol’.


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2. Eye strain

Let’s face it, most of us are in desperate need of a break from our screens. More than half the people who use computers on the job have at least some symptoms of computer vision syndrome. Yes, that’s a real thing. Constant refocusing, moving your eyes in the same (most likely screen-size) pattern, coping with flicker and glare, all can take their toll. Irritation, redness, blurred vision, and headaches are among the common symptoms of strained eyes. Eye drops and looking away from the screen every 20 minutes can offer some relief. But it surely wouldn’t hurt to spend some time staring into the distance at twinkling stars or rippling water.

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3. Healthy heart

Take heart — some medical research backs up your need to get away from the job. Two studies suggest a link between infrequent vacations and coronary heart disease mortality, largely because vacations removes ongoing stressors and anticipated threats and it offers an opportunity for social interactions with family and friends.

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4. Stress

Got stress? Back away from your desk! An American Psychological Association survey of workers in the United States found that going on a vacation helps the majority of respondents to recover from stress. The association has also reported on studies indicating that vacations can reduce the level of cortisol, the so-called stress hormone. And while on vacation do your best to shift to an out-of-the-office frame of mind and think about work as little as possible.


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5. Roll back burnout

The World Health Organization declared burnout syndrome an occupational phenomenon — a condition resulting from chronic and unmanaged workplace stress — this past spring, but chances are most people who work for a living are already familiar with the symptoms. You’re not alone if you’ve experienced feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from the job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to the job; and reduced professional efficacy. The good news is that using your vacation days can help you return to work feeling happier and more energized. For the best results, consider taking multiple vacations each year, even if some of them are shorties.

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6. Sense of well-being

Regular vacations make a difference in someone’s overall feeling of well-being, according to Gallup. People who always make time for regular trips scored 68.4 on the Gallup-Heathway’s Well-Being Index, and less-frequent travelers scored 51.4 for. Gallup’s Well-Being Index measures Americans’ perceptions of their lives and daily experiences through interrelated conditions that includes physical health.


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7. Decrease depression

According to a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Body-Mind Center leisure time, such as vacation, can contribute to a more positive mind-set and lower clinical depression levels. A separate study by Wisconsin’s Marshfield Clinic found that depression was two to three times more likely in women who didn’t take vacations regularly, compared with those who did. The change of pace and opportunity to relax and recharge can lift spirits and attitudes. Vacations also offer the chance to explore creativity and self-expression, and experience a sense of control that’s often lacking in our overscheduled daily life.

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8. Get happy

Vacation-related happiness can begin before you leave the office, according to a study reported on in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life. Even planning to get out of town boosts moods for weeks before you clock out of the office and get on your way. That glow is good for you: There’s scientific evidence suggesting that positive emotions can contribute to a longer and healthier life. Consider a relaxing getaway if you want the buzz to continue after you get back as only very relaxed trips continue to boost happiness once you return.

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9. Strengthen relationships

Research indicates that strong social ties can contribute to overall health. People who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. Whether your vacations are relaxing or more adventurous, it’s likely you’ll find a chance to build or boost bonds with family and friends, whether you’re lolling on the beach together, presiding over the grill, struggling to pitch the tent you haven’t used since high school, or bickering about the rules of pinochle or team sports. The pleasures — and minor aggravations — of spending free time in compatible company delivers a healthy buzz on multiple levels.


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10. Improved sleep

Vacation is a great time to catch up on your rest, so enjoy it while it lasts. A small study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies indicated that sleep can improve while on vacation, especially on lengthy leisure trips. In most cases in the study, the upswing in snoozing didn’t last long, with shuteye time returning to normal within a week back on the job. However, the researchers noted, “Vacation experiences, especially pleasure, relaxation, savoring and control, seem to be especially important for the strength and persistence of vacation (after-) effects.”

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11. Improved attention span

Employees who never take time off may be more prone to stress and burnout and are therefore likely to suffer from decreased attention spans. An ability to focus is critical for all kinds of tasks, from driving to crossing the street to double-checking your work to making good decisions. Taking a vacation gives your brain a break and resets your focus and creativity.


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12. Lower risk of metabolic syndrome

As many as one-third of adults in the United States may have metabolic syndrome, which is defined as a cluster of conditions such as elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. A small study conducted by researchers from three universities indicated that when participants took more vacations they experienced a dip in metabolic symptoms and a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

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