Americans leave too many vacation days on the table — to the tune of about 429 million paid vacation days every year. But taking vacations is essential, not only for our well being, but for maintaining sanity while back at home. While we might assume that many of us would rather be lying on a tropical beach rather than sitting in the office, there are far more reasons to take a vacation other than just escaping to a desirable climate. So what exactly are the health benefits of taking some much needed R&R? We spoke with Dr. Coral Arvon, the director of behavioral health and wellness at Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa, about the importance of wellness tourism for the inside scoop on how vacating truly affects every area of our lives.
Vacations make us feel alive again, which is exactly what they’re meant to do — make us feel free. During an interview that would make anyone want to pack up, head for the door, and escape for a week-long trip, Dr. Arvon gave us valuable information on why taking a vacation is essential for our well-being.
1. Reduced stress
Whether a young individual or established CEO of a Fortune 500 company, everyone needs time off from work and regular routine. Breaking routine can help relieve stress, and we need vacations for what they offer us — not having any plans, getting better sleep, and simply enjoying doing nothing. Being on vacation affords us the time to leave the worries behind that typically occupy our minds in everyday life.
2. More productivity at work
Fostering creativity and helping people reconnect with themselves, vacations allow people to return to work fully refreshed and refocused. Vacations prolong the ability to think more clearly, thus improving job performance.
3. Improved relationships
When we return from a trip, our bonds are strengthened because we feel better. Rest, stress reduction, and relaxation are so important, and when we have the opportunity to experience and achieve these things, we’re able to improve upon our relationships with others. When we don’t take vacations, we tend to be cranky, irritable, and feel much older, experiencing both physical and emotional pain more often.
4. Digital detox
Everyone needs to unplug every so often, simple as that. Why is it that Europeans go on vacations for weeks at a time, but we in the states just think that, in our minds, we just can’t get away? A person who doesn’t take vacations not only hurts themselves, but hurts their family members and employer. People need to get digitally free, taking time off and shutting everything down. When we’re relaxed, rested, and unplugged, we’ll return feeling better.
5. Undo past negative behaviors
According to Dr. Arvon, health tourism is essential in helping to get our lives back on track. While a weekend in Vegas is always fun, it’s important to remember that we need to take care of our minds and bodies while on vacation, too. In our society, it’s common to have to deal with high stress and a culture that promotes eating out and binge drinking, all of which affect our overall health and well-being. Which is why being aware of our needs and consciously choosing to incorporate aspects of health and wellness into vacations has invaluable benefits, such as slowing down the aging process and getting off medications (that may have been originally prescribed for high stress/cholesterol, diabetes due to poor diet, etc.). A vacation can literally turn a person’s life around and make them feel alive again.
As Dr. Arvon says, “When we change our moods, we change our lives.”