WASHINGTON, February 12, 2016 – The proverb “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is true in more ways than one. Our bodies weren’t designed to work constantly; we need time for rest and relaxation. If we don’t take time off, we can actually do damage to our health.
Unfortunately, Americans haven’t gotten the memo yet. According to Project: Time Off, U.S. workers took an average of 20 vacation days in 2000, but in 2013, they took only 16.
The irony is that we’re more productive at work when we take an adequate number of vacation days. If that sounds too good to be true, here are seven reasons why traveling is good for your health
1. Your Brain Gets Bigger
It may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but when you’re exposed to new experiences, your brain grows in size. Your brain also responds positively to other engaging activities, such as playing sports, adopting a hobby or going to a concert. However, traveling has a greater impact on your brain because you’re exposing it to a new, fully immersive type of experience. This forces your brain to adapt and become more attentive.
2. You Become More Empathetic
Author Wallace J. Nichols argues that going on a vacation, especially one that involves being near the water, can help boost your empathy. Human beings subconsciously associate water with feelings of expansion, awe and amazement. The sound of moving water helps us to relax and feel more in touch with our deepest selves.
3. It Eliminates Stress
When our home and work life become a source of stress, there’s no better antidote than getting away from those stressful surroundings. Vacationing helps you change your perspective on life by giving you a chance to relax and reflect. This naturally leads to a reduction in stress, especially when you’re able to participate in activities such as biking, sailing or sight-seeing.
4. You’ll Have More Energy
When our work lives become so hectic that we’re not able to get enough sleep, we can’t think clearly or perform our work tasks efficiently. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Vacations give us time to get that much needed shut-eye, so that when we return to work, we’ll be well-rested and refreshed.
5. It Will Improve Your Mood
Diamond Resorts International conducted a survey in 2014 and found that 75 percent of respondents felt happier when they planned an annual vacation. Studies also showed that just thinking about a past vacation makes one feel happier.
6. It’s Good For Your Heart
Heart disease is the primary cause of death for American men and women. Before you freak out and begin researching different types of life insurance, here’s a fact that will ease your mind: the Global Coalition On Aging found that women who go on vacation at least twice a year are less likely to suffer a heart attack. Men who didn’t vacation were 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease. In other words, it’s time to make room for that Taiwan tour you’ve always wanted to go on. Your heart will thank you later.
7. It Helps You Become Physically Fit
When you’re sitting in an office all day, it’s hard to stay physically fit. Vacations allow people to get their bodies back into shape, even if all they’re doing is walking around and sight-seeing. With all that time off, you’re also more likely to participate in strenuous physical activities like hiking, yoga, swimming or rafting.
Everyone has to work, but our jobs should never require us to sacrifice our health. The research and the message are clear. If you want to stay healthy, take an annual or biannual vacation. It’s a win-win scenario for you, your family and your co-workers.