When was the last time you took a vacation? If you live in the United States, chances are it’s been a while.
Vacations are more than just opportunities to visit with family, cultivate your tan lines or finally rent that cherry-red Mustang convertible; taking extended breaks from work and the daily grind can actually improve your physical, mental and emotional well-being.
The reality, however, is that Americans are not taking all of their earned vacation days. A 2014 Project: Time Off survey revealed that while 96 percent of people recognize the importance of taking time off, 41 percent did not plan on taking all of their available vacation. Another survey showed that 42 percent of Americans did not take a single day of vacation in 2014.
Vacations Benefit Everyone
Vacations are good for your health. For example, a nine-year study, sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, found that middle-aged men at high risk for heart disease who took regular annual vacations were 32 percent less likely to develop heart disease. But it's not just men who benefit from vacation. Women do, too. According to the Framingham heart study — the renowned longitudinal study of cardiovascular disease — women who vacationed frequently were less likely to have heart attacks or die of coronary-related reasons. In addition, a Wisconsin study of 1,500 rural women demonstrated that frequent vacations led to less depression and tension, as well as greater energy and marital satisfaction.
Families as a whole benefit from vacation, too. In fact, a Disney-funded poll found that 97 percent of parents with children aged 5 to 17 said their children learned more about them on family trips. Also, these getaways enable families to have more meals together and be sillier and more affectionate with each other.
Vacation Makes You More Productive and Relaxed
Interestingly, the concept of leaving unused vacation days is practically unheard of in Europe. In fact, the European Union requires its citizens to receive at least 20 paid vacation days every year. (In contrast, U.S. companies are not legally required to give their employees any paid time off.) This mandate stems from the idea that workers are not only less stressed when given time off, but that they come back more productive and less likely to burn out.
The good news is that you don’t have to book a two-week African safari or Caribbean spa resort getaway in order to reap the health benefits associated with vacationing. A quick trip up the coast or a weekend country escape or camping trip can do the trick. The main focus should be on breaking your routine and doing whatever relaxes you.
Now what are you doing still reading this article? Go plan your getaway!