Research continues to show that Americans are the most overworked developed nation in the world. According to the International Labor Organization, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.”In the U.S., 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week. In addition, take less vacation, work longer days and retire later. As Americans, we’re pressured to stand out, be successful, and never take a break, or we may miss out on the next rung on the corporate ladder.
Overall Americans are not using all their vacation opportunities. Victor Lipman, in his Forbes article in 2019, “Why America Has Become ‘The No-Vacation Nation’,” shares that “47% of Americans didn’t take all of their vacation time last year in 2018 and 21% ‘left more than five vacation days on the table.’” Nearly half (49%) of American workers said they can't vacation because their workloads are too heavy, according to a 2016 survey from NPR, Harvard, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation - 42% of those survey respondents said they felt they couldn't take all their paid vacation days because there weren't enough people to cover for them.
What is this, America? Why are we not taking the vacation days we’ve worked so hard to earn? Why aren’t we allowing ourselves to relax and recharge? Unfortunately, what often gets forgotten is that to do well, and truly succeed, it’s critical to plan downtime to recharge and renew. Ironically, time away from the office can positively impact your productivity at work and even your life span. For the betterment of our health, happiness, and relationships, it’s time we start taking more vacations. Consider this your authorization to use that PTO you’ve been accruing over the last several months.
If you need some additional reasons why you should make vacations a priority, read on.
1. Vacationing Improves Your Physical Health
Take overworking, for example, 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% more likely to suffer a stroke and have a 13% greater risk of heart attack than those who work 35-40 hours weekly.
Vacationing may seem like a luxury, but research reveals it as a necessity. Working straight through the year could put your health in peril. A study published by the National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI), found that men who were at risk for heart disease and skipped their vacation days were 30% more likely to have a heart attack than those who took extended time off annually.
The Framingham Heart Study tracked women who rarely took vacations (no more than once every six years) over the course of 20 years. The study found that these women were almost eight times more likely to have a heart attack than women who took at least two vacations a year.
Why? Chronic stress! Chronic stress negatively affects our body's ability to resist infection, maintain critical functions, and even the ability to avoid injury. When you're stressed and rundown, you are at an increased risk of become ill, your arteries are strained, and you're more likely to be involved in an accident. Stress hormones, like toxic cortisol, increase when we’re overworked and stressed. Taking a vacation allows our stress hormones to settle down and regulate giving our body much needed downtime.
Clinical psychologist Deborah Mulhern told ABC that when you don't unwind and get away from "external stresses", it gets harder for your body to relax. "What neuroscience is showing is that we require down time in order for our bodies to go through the process of restoration," she told ABC News. "Without time and opportunity to do this, the neural connections that produce feelings of calm and peacefulness become weaker, making it actually more difficult to shift into less-stressed modes."
Taking vacations can help keep you young. Board certified emergency physician Dr. Leigh Vinocur says on TakeBackYourTime.org, “Chronic stress is believed to accelerate biologic aging and the aging process. Why not do yourself a big favor? Make yourself a priority and take some time off. Medically speaking, taking regular vacations is one of the most rewarding prescriptions I can recommend for staying healthy!”
2. Vacationing Improves Your Mental Health
The benefits of meditation are fairly well know, but few realize that studies show vacations can have the same effect as a regular meditation practice. Both meditating and taking a break from the workplace significantly lower stress and boost the immune system. Here’s the best news of all: these benefits last up to 10 months after the getaway ends.
A study published by the National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI), found that women who vacation frequently are less likely to experience depression, fatigue and anxiety. Additionally, neuroscientists have found that brain structure is negatively altered by chronic exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, which can be a major contributing factor to varying levels of irritability, anxiety and depression. Feelings of calm arise from time away from work and relieve stress, which allows the body and mind to heal.
3. Vacationing Makes You Happier
Research is finding that experiences create more happiness than possessions. A combination of the following activities while vacationing lead to happiness: meeting new people, gaining self-confidence, the chance to decompress, learning new things, and creating lasting memories. All of these combined can increase your “happiness ratio.”
According to a Gallup study, people who "always make time for regular trips" had a 68.4 score on the Gallup-Heathway's Well-Being Index, in comparison to a 51.4 Well-Being score for less frequent travelers. One study found that three days after vacation, subjects' physical complaints, quality of sleep, and mood had improved as compared to before vacation. These gains were still present five weeks later, especially in those who had more personal time and overall satisfaction during their vacation.
Taking time off can help with overall job satisfaction. Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) said that 78 percent of human resources directors found that team members who took more vacation days reported higher overall job satisfaction.
4. Vacationing Makes You More Productive
According to a 2013 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study cited by Project Time Off, 75% of people and culture professionals reported seeing better performance from team members who took more vacation days than from those who took less.
Shannon Torberg, Psy.D., LP wrote on the Allina Health blog, “A number of studies have shown that taking time away from the job can have physical and psychological health benefits. People who take vacations have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, a better outlook on life, and more motivation to achieve goals.”
In addition, studies have found that chronic stress can actually modify the part of the brain that is responsible for goal-directed activity and can cause problems with memory. After some much-deserved time off, you’ll return home rested, motivated, and ready to tackle that new project with enthusiasm.
5. Vacationing Improves Romantic Relationships
Taking time away from work allows employees the opportunity to reconnect with their romantic partners away from the daily grind. A survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Association found that out of those who responded, 86% of the couples who vacationed together reported that the romance was still alive in their relationship and 94% said they felt very close to one another. In general, when couples regularly spend time traveling and exploring together, they feel like they share the same goals, interests and desires which enhances their relationship satisfaction. Additionally, a study by the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacations were overall more satisfied with their marriages.
6. Vacationing Improves Familial Relationships
U.S. children with working parents report that their parents are bringing both their work and work-related stress home with them. Additionally, kids report having significant stress of their own. Vacations offer all family members time to relax, decompress, and the opportunity to connect with one another. Without workplace obligations and other daily pressures to focus on, parents can shift their attention to their kids’ needs, leading to more familial happiness.
In fact, family vacations positively affect familial connection, communication, and cohesion. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., states in Psychology Today that vacations promote what is called the “crescive bond,” AKA, a “shared experience,” by fostering, growing and enduring connections. Shared family memories and time spent together isolated from your ordinary routines help to promote these positive ties. This means your Walt Disney World Resort Vacation is not only giving you time away from the office but simultaneously bringing your family closer together. You’ll be making valuable memories and talking about those experiences for many years to come.
7. Vacationing Decreases Burn Out
Workers who take regular time to relax are less likely to experience burnout, making them more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts.
The bottom line is - wherever you chose to go, taking time away from the stresses of work and the daily routines of life; can improve our physical and mental health, increase happiness, improve productivity, enrich interpersonal relationships, and gives us the break we need to return to our lives and jobs refreshed and better equipped to take on new challenges. There you have it, Science says “take your vacation days!”
For any (or all) of these reasons, submit that vacation request now and start the process on booking that next adventure. Trust me, your mental and physical health will thank you.
Whenever you’re ready, I will be here to help you plan your vacation from start to finish! I hope to talk to you soon!
Brandi Parker, Travel Specialist Magical Moments Vacations MagicalVacationsbyBrandi.com