The Health Benefits of Taking a Vacation
Vacationing can be as effective as medicine to our health. Who doesn’t need a little time away from the office to recalibrate and decompress every once in a while?
Interestingly enough, going away on holiday doesn’t just make you feel better, it can change you on a biological level as well.
The Mind Benefits
For starters, let’s acknowledge that not everyone has available time off or enough of it. About half of Americans don’t take all of the paid time off available to them, and even half of those who do take time off end up working. And while it might be crucial to wow your boss with your work ethic, you could also be neglecting your health which is essential if you want to be productive at work or elsewhere.
One study found that planning a vacation can boost your levels of happiness up to 8 weeks before your trip.
Once you’re on vacation, the benefits are endless. When we’re in a new environment, especially out of the country, our neural pathways are affected. We respond to this new environment and that activity can get our creative juices flowing.
We could spend a lot of time on autopilot when going about our usual daily activities. Our brains know where everything is and how things work. Exposing your brain to new cultures, new sounds, and new foods, all kinds of synapses are firing off which motivates us to try new things and reinvigorates our minds.
The Body Benefits
The Framingham Heart study found that women who vacationed at least once every two years were 8 times less likely to have a heart attack than those who only vacationed once every 6 years.
Middle-aged men with a high risk of coronary heart disease posed a lower risk of dying when they vacationed once a year, according to a study by the University of Massachusetts. 32% of men who vacation regularly are less likely to die of heart disease, and 21% are less likely to die of any other cause.
According to a study published in Translational Psychiatry, our molecular networks can be greatly affected by vacationing and meditating. In the study, a group of 94 healthy women between 30 and 60 years of age, were monitored during a week-long stay at a resort. Half of the group vacationed, while the other half vacationed and incorporated a meditation program. A separate group of 30 experienced meditators participated in the study to help scientists measure the effectiveness of meditation.
Researchers monitored 20,000 genes during and after the trip to the resort to see which genes changed. The study showed that all 3 groups showed significant changes in their molecular networks after one week on vacation.
The most gene activity was in areas of immune function and stress response. The group of inexperienced meditators still felt relaxed, were visibly relieved of stress, and had fewer depression symptoms a month after the trip, compared to the group that only vacationed.
While it might be widely assumed that taking a vacation can soothe and melt away stress, this study was one of the first that allowed researchers to observe big changes to the body’s genes in such a short time.
You don’t need to take off on a luxurious, exotic vacation to reset. Simply taking some time to relax at home, unplugging from work and emails, or taking a drive out somewhere with friends could turn on vacation mode. Try something new in an unfamiliar location or try new cuisine in your neighborhood to keep your brain active and alert. Visit a neighboring town or city and check out different spots. A new environment could be very beneficial for you.