There are plenty of good reasons to take a vacation, whether you’re eager to catch up on beach reads with a cocktail in hand or just want to take a much-needed break from the office. Still, while 73 percent of full-time private sector workers are offered paid vacation days, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, research suggests that Americans are taking less time off than ever. In fact, about 55 percent of Americans are leaving some or all of their vacation time unused.
That’s right. More than half of us our leaving free time off on the table. And that means we’re missing choice opportunities to become happier, healthier, and all-around more productive, because, as it turns out, vacations are good for you. Really good for you. Just read on to see why putting aside your workaholic tendencies—even if just for a moment—is in your best interest. And when you do get around to booking that vacation, make sure you’ve committed to memory the 20 Ways to Make Travel Less Stressful.
Lower Blood Pressure
Approximately one in three adults in America has high blood pressure, putting them at risk for chronic disease, strokes, and heart attacks. The good news? Taking a vacation could be the cure. Research published in Psychosomatic Medicine reveals that individuals who spent more time enjoying leisure activities, like vacations, had reduced cortisol levels. High cortisol is linked to increased blood pressure, so if you want to keep your numbers in a healthy range, it’s high time you start scoping out hotels.
A Healthier Heart
As your blood pressure drops, so does your risk of heart attack. Fortunately, taking a vacation can have a profound effect on your cardiovascular health, lowering your cortisol levels, blood pressure, and your heart attack risk in one fell swoop. For easy ways to keep your cardiovascular health issues at bay, try slating The 7 Best Foods For Your Heart into your diet.
Want to lose those last 10 pounds? Try taking a vacation. Having high cortisol levels increases your risk of unintended weight gain, but a relaxing trip can have those numbers dropping in no time.
If you’re feeling stressed out, there’s virtually no better medicine than a vacation. In addition to reducing the psychological stress of the daily grind, taking a vacation can reduce stress-related cortisol surges, breaking you out of the cortisol and stress cycle for good. And for those times you can’t go on vacation, conquer your stress with the 30 Easiest Ways to Conquer Stress For Good.
Better Overall Health
Staying healthy could be as easy as using your vacation days. Researchers at Penn State found a link between leisure activities, like travel, and increased overall health in later life, so start racking up those frequent flier miles now. And to score more time off, learn The Single Best Way to Get More Vacation Days At Work.
A Slimmer Waistline
That ever-expanding waistline could be stopped with few days of sun and sand. Vacationing reduces cortisol levels, which are linked to weight gain, specifically in the abdominal region. Take a few days off, lower your cortisol levels, and you’ll be back in your skinny jeans before you know it.
Seeing the same four walls day in and day out is enough to make anyone feel more than a little stifled. Fortunately, all it takes is some vacation time to tap that font of creativity living within you. If you can go abroad, all the better: Researchers at Northwestern University have linked international travel with increased creativity. Few great artists have found themselves inspired by a cubicle in the suburbs, after all. And for more ways to boost your out-of-the-box thinking, learn the 6 Surefire Ways to Become A Creative Genius.
Opportunities to Make New Friends
After college, opportunities to make new friends often seem few and far between. Luckily, traveling can open you up to a much wider social circle than the one you have available to you at home, affording you lasting friendships along the way.
Finding yourself in a less-than-pleasant mood after a long work week is hardly unheard of. If you want to reduce your stress and return to the office with a smile, consider taking a vacation. In fact, a study published in Applied Research in Quality of Life reveals that just booking a vacation to look forward to significantly increased study participants’ happiness.
If you want to get your work done faster and more effectively, you should definitely take those vacation days. Multiple studies suggest that participating in leisure activities can increase workplace productivity, and anecdotally, a few days on the beach is a surefire cure for office burnout. And for more ways to make the most of every day, check out the 15 Ways to Double Your Productivity.
Stress is no better for the health of your relationships than it is for the health of your body. According to one study, couples who take vacations together are happier and more satisfied with their relationships than those who don’t.
A Better Sex Life
Not only is vacation sex more fun than your average roll in the hay at home, taking a vacation may make you more likely to feel frisky. Vacationing can lower your cortisol levels, thus increasing circulation and arousal. And having sex in a bed you don’t have to make yourself afterwards? Truly top-notch stuff.
Access to New Cultures
It’s easy to forget that there’s a whole world outside of your city or town. Vacationing can open you up to cultures you would never have a chance to experience otherwise, making you worldly (and a whole lot more interesting to talk to) in the process.
A Healthier Immune System
While recycled airplane air is unlikely to do great things for your health, foreign food might just give your immune system a boost after all. Research suggests that introducing new foods into your diet can rapidly alter the bacteria in your gut, affecting your immune system, about 70 percent of which lives in your digestive tract.
Feeling anxious? Try taking some time off. Cortisol and anxiety are inextricably entwined, and lowering the former with a vacation can help you ditch those feelings of anxiety, too.
Better Odds of Getting Promoted
If you think that giving up your paid time off will increase your chances of landing a promotion, think again. In fact, research suggests that workers who take advantage of their vacation days are more likely to be promoted than those who don’t. For more ways to climb the career ladder, check out The Single Fastest Way to Get Promoted.
Fewer Digestive Issues
Keeping your digestive tract healthy could be as easy as booking a trip. Stress influences the production of cortisol, which can lead to digestive health issues. Take a vacation, lower your circulating cortisol, and you’ll kiss those stomach issues goodbye faster than you can say “Puerta Vallarta.”
Reduced Depression Risk
Spending day after day in the same fluorescent-lit cubicle can be enough to make anyone feel depressed. Luckily, a vacation might just be the cure you need. Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin have found that spending time in nature can reduce symptoms of depression, so if you’re feeling blue, enjoying a vacation somewhere green could do the trick.
A Lower Risk of Obesity
Reduce your risk of joining the ranks of the obese by taking those vacation days. Work stress can increase cortisol production, influencing weight gain and increasing your risk of obesity, as well.
Increased Odds of Getting a Raise
Want to see more zeroes in your paycheck? Taking some time off is a good way to get the ball rolling. According to Project Time Off, workers who took their allotted vacation days were more likely to receive raise than those who didn’t. But before you start that conversation with your boss, make sure you know exactly How to Ask Your Boss For A Raise.
Keep those crow’s feet at bay by taking your vacation days. Stress can cause an inflammatory response throughout the body, triggering increased cellular aging, the results of which can show up on your skin. If you want to maintain that radiant, youthful glow, a vacation could be just the thing you need.
Hotel beds can feel like a little slice of heaven, making it easier to get some much-needed rest when you’re in one. Better yet, when you reduce your day-to-day stress by enjoying a little time off, those thoughts keeping you up at night at home are likely to all but disappear.
Fewer Aches and Pains
Those constant aches and pains don’t have to be part of your everyday life. Research published in Physical Therapy reveals a strong correlation between stress, depression, and chronic pain, but fortunately, vacation is effective at reducing all three.
Improved Memory Retention
Vacation is good for more than just making new memories: it may even help you preserve old ones, too. Taking part in leisure activities is linked to improved memory retention, making those vacation days a potent prescription for a healthier mind.
Reduced Dementia Risk
Over time, the results of taking your vacation days may even help you reduce your dementia risk. Research in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals a link between partaking in leisure activities and a reduced risk of dementia later in life, so there’s no time like the present to start pricing flights.
The solution to those stress headaches could be a plane ride away. Vacationing can reduce stress and cortisol, both of which are related to an increased risk of headaches.
Better Problem Solving Skills
You’re not doing yourself any favors at work by refusing to take your vacation. In fact, research suggests that workers who use their vacation days had fewer problems at the office than those getting burnt out by the 9-to-5 grind.
If you want to maintain that glowing complexion, start planning your next vacation. Researchers at SUNY Stony Brook have found that exposure to compact fluorescent lighting—the kind you may have in your office—can actually cause skin damage. However, controlled exposure to sunlight on a tropical vacation can increase your body’s Vitamin D absorption, making your skin healthier and more radiant.
Improved Performance at Work
Sacrificing your vacation days won’t actually help you get more done at the office. According to a study conducted by Project Time Off, workers who took their full vacation were more effective at their jobs when they returned to work when compared to those who took only a portion of their vacation.
Stress can be major energy-sapper, but taking a vacation can have you feeling less fatigued in no time. Vacation can help you escape from the stresses of your everyday life, lowering your cortisol levels, helping you sleep better, and providing you all the energy you’ve been missing out on.
Stress is doing you no favors when it comes to recovering from injury. Stress and cortisol spikes can prolong the amount of time it takes for you to heal from illness or injury. So, if you want to get back on your feet faster, take advantage of those vacation days.
Improved Muscle Tone
What do vacation and muscle tone have to do with one another? More than you might think. The stress associated with a vacation-free life can make you less motivated to work out, increase your body’s production of belly fat, and may make you more likely to get injured, while increasing the amount of time it takes to recover. Taking a stress-relieving vacation can help you get back on track and keep those hard-earned muscles from wasting away.
More Time Spent With Friends
With long hours at the office, it’s hard to find time to socialize with friends. Luckily, vacation provides you the perfect opportunity to get some time alone with your spouse or other members of your inner circle, making your relationship stronger along the way.
Improved Cognitive Function
Give your brain a boost by taking every last one of your vacation days this year. Researchers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health found that the more time people spent at work, the lower their overall cognitive function. If you want to keep your mind sharp, taking a break from time to time is key.
A Longer Life
From improving your heart health to staving off dementia, vacations are crucial for our overall well-being. When all those risk factors are reduced, a longer life isn’t far off. If you want to count yourself among the lucky few who live to see a full century, don’t miss the 100 Ways to Live to 100.
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