You may have heard the saying, "Nobody on their deathbed has ever said, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.'" But spending less time at the office—and more time on vacation— appears easier said than done for many of us: according to an article in Forbes, only 25 percent of Americans take their paid vacation.
This is too bad, because as it turns out, one week at the beach, a trek through the woods, or a cruise to the Bahamas can yield a multitude of health benefits. In fact, just the mental health benefits alone are worth considering. They add up to these 10 reasons to take a vacation this summer for the sake of your mental health:
2. Better cardiovascular and overall physical health – In a 40-year study known as the "Helsinki Businessmen Study," researchers treating men at risk of heart disease found that men who took at least three weeks of vacation were 37 percent less likely to die than those who took fewer weeks off. Those cardiovascular benefits have positive implications for mental health, based on research reported by the American Heart Association into the connection between heart health and mental health.
3. Greater productivity – Professionals who were required to take time off were significantly more productive than those who worked more, a study by the Boston Consulting Group, found. That greater productivity can translate into higher self-esteem and confidence, which can be important protective factors with respect to mental illness. (Learn more about why self-esteem is important for mental health, according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness.)
4. Better mental focus and alertness – One reason for that post-vacation higher productivity? Better mental focus and alertness, which experts have also attributed to taking a break from work. In fact, the same experts point to research showing that taking time off is good for overall brain health, not just cognitive performance.
5. Raises your chances of a bonus and/or promotion – This finding appeared in the Harvard Business Review's "Data-Driven Case for Vacation," where, surprisingly, people who took 10 or more vacation days had roughly double the chance of landing a raise or bonus than people who took less than 10 vacation days. A higher salary can increase one's quality of life, which can in turn predict the quality of one's mental health.
6. Stronger family relationships – Researchers at Purdue University reportedly concluded that family vacations strengthened family bonding and solidarity, by creating positive memories and connections. Healthy and strong family relationships are a preventative factor with respect to mental health issues and can play a major role in the recovery of a loved one with an addiction or other form of mental illness.
7. Just planning a trip makes you happier – Yep. It's true, according to findings in the March 2010 issue of Applied Research in Quality of Life. Naturally, then, a bump in happiness is good for your mental health.
8. A fresh and more expansive perspective on life – Yet another mental health bonus to getting outside of your routine and exploring a new place, a fresh perspective on life can challenge and expand your notions of what's possible or achievable. Changing your environment gives you a new look on things as well: when you are out of the normal routine, you can reflect on things in a new way. It can be a way of re-evaluating your values and priorities, with a view to helping you align yourself with what you really want out of life.
9. Increases your creativity – A January 2018 article in Forbes laid out the evidence that vacationing increases your creativity. As for how creativity improves your mental health? Those many benefits required their own article in a July 2017 article in HuffPost. Mental health benefits were listed as ranging from reducing stress, reducing anxiety and alleviating depression to increasing positive emotions and raising self-esteem and confidence.
10. Greater life satisfaction – A study of over 3,000 Canadian workers, (cited by the APA in the same findings mentioned above), found that those who took more paid time off experienced more positive wellbeing and life satisfaction. Strikingly, they also reported better mental health. So overall quality of life improved, which in turn will make us more resilient, helping us to "bounce back" when things are tough.