Here’s some food for the soul that validates you taking those well-earned days off work: vacations have been proven to improve your health and bodily functions. In all honesty, this shouldn’t be a revelation at all — holidays give you a break from work and allow you to recuperate from the stress you put yourself through. It only follows that a well-rested body is a healthy one.
A study by Dr. Eric Schadt, founding director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at Mount Sinai in New York, sought to measure an individual’s well-being while on vacation and in the time proceeding it. It ultimately found that indications of stress regulation and immune function were significantly stronger on a genetic level.
In order to arrive at this conclusion, the study considered respondents who had undertaken a meditation retreat as well as respondents in a typical rest-and-relaxation holiday. A significant observation was that the type of vacation did not matter as long as the individual themselves were able to unwind. Both meditation and the typical holiday left the vacationing individuals with a phenomenon called “vacation effect”.
The vacation effect refers to that general improvement of health we typically experience following a vacation. It is the circumstance of individuals ending up refreshed and invigorated after a trip for an undefined amount of time. Some cases have even seen this vacation effect last up to 10 months after, as long as they kept up relaxing practices like meditation.
Dr. Schadt explains the logic behind the effect:
Vacation in a relaxing, resort-like environment takes you away from your day-to-day grind, which may be high stress in which your body is in a more defensive-like posture, with pressures to meet deadlines, dealing with angry customers, ‘battling’ with colleagues for resources to accomplish your mission or whatever.
On a relaxing vacation, you allow your body to get out of that defensive posture, reduce your levels of stress which in turn affects the states of cells that are involved in your immune system.
The opposite of vacation—overwork—can lead to health problems. Researchers studied the work habits of more than 600,000 people in the US, UK, and Australia, and found that people who work more than 55 hours a week are 33 percent more likely to suffer a stroke and have a 13 percent greater risk of heart attack than those who work 35 to 40 hours weekly.
So, obviously the next time you question whether you really need that vacation the answer is a resounding yes. The only thing left to ask is how much time you really need to take for yourself. So it’s a good thing that research done by Psychosomatic Medicine has already answered that for us. According to them, it’s clear that we ought to go on 30 to 45 days of vacation a year.
It’s up to us how that month and a half is broken down over 12 months, wether we opt for 2 long trips and a handful of shorter ones in between or dozens of weekend trips over the year. However, a study on the Journal of Happiness Studies did discover that the ideal vacation length would go from 8 to 14 days. This is due to people typically reaching peak health 8 days into their vacation.
Since 8-day vacations (or longer) aren’t really practical for most people they push that any time off remains beneficial for your overall wellness. So do try to plan your holidays out because everyone deserves some ‘me time’ now and then — it’s good for you, after all!
What’s your travel destination bucketlist? Share it with us in the comments!