Taking a vacation once in a while is key to staying in good health, both mentally and physically. Yet, not enough Americans make taking a break a priority.
There’s an old saying that says “the days are long, but the years are fast.” On a day-to-day basis, it can feel like we’re grinding away at work or school; yet, we can hardly believe that certain things were X years ago. With that being the case, it’s hard to set aside time once in a while to take a break from the bustle of everyday life and take a vacation to clear your mind and reset your stress levels.
Yet, doing so can have profound benefits for your overall wellness. The boost to your mental health is obvious: getting to go to a place you’ve always wanted to visit, and spend the hours in your days exactly as you want to, has a pleasurable and stress-reducing effect. You’ll make memories and have experiences that shake you out of your ordinary routine and can provide fresh perspectives on problems or questions in your life that you’ve been dealing with. This can result in positive changes that remain even after you return from your vacation.
What might surprise you, however, is the benefits you might be receiving in terms of your physical health, as well. The Framingham Heart Study, considered by some the “gold standard” for long-term health research, displays some awe-inspiring stats after tracking a group of workers over a two decade period. It found that men who don’t vacation are 30% more likely to suffer a heart attack in their lives; and for women, that number is a staggering 50%. Those are incredibly huge figures; and while that result is probably a result of a complex and interweaving set of influential factors and variables, there is simply no denying that there is substantial evidence-based data about the importance of vacation.
If the benefits of vacationing once in a while are so apparent, why don’t Americans do it more often? Well, that’s not exactly an easy question to get to the root of. The fact is, it’s just not a part of American culture to take lots of time away from work. Our society and culture has an “always on” aspect to it that can lead people to feel guilty or anxious if they step away from the office and put their email on Vacation Mode.
Embarrassingly, our country has zero mandated days off, putting us in a tie for dead last in the world with Kiribati, The Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, and Tonga. Only those five countries plus our own have no required vacation days as part of their citizens’ protection. Countries such as the United Kingdom, with their 28 mandated vacation days, must look at us and think we’re crazy for putting up with those conditions.
But the fact remains that this is the society we live in, and so it’s up to us to fight for our own vacation time and be our own best advocate for our own well-being. January 30th was National Plan A Vacation Day; and even though it’s a couple days after that, maybe it’s time that you start thinking about your next break, too.