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Sail Away! How Vacations Keep You Healthy & Happy


In the U.S. we are given far less vacation time than in most other countries. It seems we don’t fully understand the importance of taking time to rest and renew ourselves. About 40% of Americans fail to use the vacation time allotted them. In fact, a 2014 study demonstrated that in the U.S., on average, employees only take about half of the vacation time they are given and many of the people who do take vacation, work while away. This is likely true because, in spite of the fact that employees who take vacation time are more productive, have better morale, and have higher rates of retention, a study conducted by Forbes found that 17% of managers felt that employees who took vacation were less dedicated than those who did not. 

According to an article in USA Today, “The United States is the only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation day or holiday. By law, every country in the European Union has at least four work weeks of paid vacation.” This wikipedia chart shows the minimum mandatory vacation days, by country, worldwide. The United States is the only country with 0 days listed. 

What are we missing?

Taking Time Off
The health benefits of time off have been demonstrated in a number of recent studies from the likes of prominent voices in the business world, such as Ernst & Young and Forbes to health authorities like Healthnet and WebMD. From dramatically cutting instances of heart attack and heart disease to healthier waistlines, the physical benefits are substantial. On top of the physical benefits, there are psychological, mental health, and wellness benefits to taking a break from routine. Some of these include:
  • Less stress and a more positive outlook on life. Getting away on vacation can help alleviate the stress of your work life. By simply removing yourself from the stress inducing environment, you reset yourself. People also report feeling more satisfied with their lives during and after a vacation.
  • Greater motivation to achieve goals and improved productivity at work. Several recent studies demonstrated that time off increases performance and productivity of employees.
  • Decreased depression. Studies show that those who take regular, annual vacations suffer less stress and fewer instances of depression. It could be that those who take regular vacations, also have a greater commitment to self care, as these individuals also tend to have positive emotional outlooks.
  • Sense of closeness to spouse and family. After a vacation, many folks report feeling more connected to family members. Additionally, spouses feel closer after a trip together, as less stress facilitates more love making and better communication.
  • Growth and flexibility for young travelers. Young people who travel report feeling more independent, more trusting, and more confident after vacation. These travelers also express the desire to travel more and have new experiences. 

The bottom line: work-life balance is extremely beneficial. So, plan that vacation. Don’t let fear of making a negative impression on a manger keep you from enjoying the myriad physical and emotional benefits of resetting yourself. Your improved morale and productivity upon return will speak for themselves!

Dr. Eileen Wynne


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