What’s the best gift you can give a loved one? Send them away on a vacation.
As if I actually needed more reason to take a vacation, a recent article in Conde Nast’s Traveler magazine reported that taking just 2 vacations a year can cut a person’s risk of heart attack by 50%!! There is actual evidence that shows that taking an annual (or, ideally, bi-annual) vacation can truly reduce your risk of heart attack and death. And in a Framingham Heart Study, participants who took the fewest vacations turned out to be statistically most at risk to suffer a heart attack.
But despite the clear health – and mental – benefits a relaxing vacation can offer, many of us Americans refuse to take all of our vacation time. 34% of American workers don’t use up all of their allotted vacation time, even though we get far less time off than many other countries. In most European countries, for example, 6 weeks paid-vacation is the law-required standard. But here in the U.S., 2-weeks is more the norm, and even that isn’t required – employers in United States are not required to give any mandatory minimum vacation time.
So whatever vacation time you do have, take it! Almost any kind of holiday trip can have a positive benefit on your health – whether it’s a quick weekend away or long and luxurious 3-week vacation. That’s because most of us tend to feel happier and less stressed just in anticipation of a trip, and once we’re actually away, we tend to sleep longer and better and feel more relaxed overall.
So while it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that vacations make us feel good, there are some easy tips to make your trip even more rejuvenating. The first is to watch out for overindulgence: while it’s perfectly fine (and encouraged!) to indulge in the local delicacies of wherever you’re visiting, make sure you don’t use your trip as an excuse to excessively binge on foods and alcohol that will only make you feel more worn out and fatigued when you return home. Rather than thinking of vacations as an time to drink too much and eat too much, try viewing your holiday as a health-promoting, energizing experience. Or consider checking out one of the many wellness-inspired destinations popping up around the world.
Another tip is to maximize your free time. When you feel obligated to check your email and voicemails every couple of minutes, have to meet up with friends or family constantly, or have to strictly follow an itinerary, chances are the curative effects of your travel will be reduced. So try to keep your schedule relatively light and carefree.
Lastly, while a trip of any length will most likely have you feeling happier, try for 7 days (or more) when you can. Science shows that 7 days or longer tends to have the most restorative effects on our health.
So what are you waiting for?! Pack those bags now!