Science Proves It: You NEED to Take a Vacation


"All who wander are not lost." — J. R. R. Tolkien

Fifty-seven percent of American workers don't take all of the vacation days they're given by their employers. As many as half a billion vacation days go unused, and 92% of people who do take vacation check in at the office at least once during that time. Most developed nations — 20 out of 21 — have mandated vacation benefits. The U.S. is the lone exception, and that could be harming the productivity and health of the American workforce. Here are five scientific studies that highlight the holistic benefits of vacation.

1. Vacation Fires Up the Brain

Time away from work, all work, actually ignites the brain. In the mid-1990s, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to show that while people concentrate on a task, parts of their brain experience a drastic reduction in activity. When those same people let their minds wander, those same parts of the brain light up like a Christmas tree. Downtime is actually a stimulant for the brain.

2. Vacation Sparks Creativity

If you like to spend your vacation time exploring other cultures, chances are your downtime will supercharge your creativity. Scientists found that people who spend time abroad are forced to learn to navigate the world on very different terms than they usually experience in their everyday lives. Being a stranger in a strange land strengthens our creative muscles, literally and figuratively, and those benefits linger long after the vacation ends. These experiences also make us better managers, negotiators, and collaborators.

3. A Rested Brain Is a Connected Brain

For too long, sleep was seen as a waste of time. Now there are a plethora of sleep studies that show sleep and rest are the very best methods to assimilate new information into knowledge we can use in future circumstances. We are bombarded by information, data, and many other forms of stimuli during every waking moment. When we rest, our brains have the opportunity to connect all of these disparate dots, and those connections lead to insights great and small. Sleep and rest also improve memory. So, be sure to get plenty of rest on your next vacation!

4. The Shortest Bridge Between Despair and Hope Is a Good Vacation

This is more than a clever turn of phrase. It's actually grounded in science. Studies show that people who sleep 7-8 hours per night are happier and healthier. If you're feeling low, rest and relaxation via a vacation may be exactly what the doctor will order. Vacation gives us a chance to truly let go, and that's food for the emotional centers of the brain that will bring it back into balance.

5. Vacation Reduces Stress

Stress is one of the root causes of disease. It's been shown to cause cellular degeneration and increase blood pressure, sugar levels, and blood lipid levels that increase the risks for heart disease and stroke. It also negatively impacts the respiratory and digestive systems. In short, stress kills. A true vacation gives us a chance to detox the body of stress, and that detox is crucial for our long-term health. It recharges us mentally and physically, with a particularly positive impact on brain health and cognitive function.

With all these benefits of vacation, it's time to get out those travel books, fire up your search engine, and start planning your next great getaway. Don't think of it as time off; think of it as an investment in your most valuable asset — you and your health!

Have you noticed how vacation improves your productivity? Please share in comments!

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Guest's picture

I also refresh myself by taking a vacation to other countries.

Guest's picture

Actually, the quote is 'not all those who wander are lost.' I have the tattoo :-)