What Taking a Vacation Right Now Will Do for Your Health

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Americans aren't taking all of their vacation time, but they should be. 

Beach Vacation

It could just be an inspiring work ethic, or a workaholic office culture, but Americans left 169 million paid vacation days on the table in 2014—a 40-year high—as The Guardian reported. That averages out to about five unused vacation days per worker.

And that's on top of the fact that American businesses already give their workers less time off than almost anywhere else in the world. The United States is the only advanced economy that doesn't have a legal standard for paid leave.

By contrast, Spain and Germany both guarantee their workers 34 days of paid leave each year. That's more than a month off!

As the Guardian reported, post-2008 job insecurity, fierce competition in the workplace, and large amounts of work are all contributing factors towards Americans not taking their allotted vacation time. 

Furthermore, the U.S. Travel Association found that 28 percent of workers did not take vacation, so that they could prove their dedication and work ethic. 

And even when Americans do go on vacation, most stay connected to the workplace remotely, hoping to avoid work piling up while they were gone.

"They [are] leashed to the office via electronic devices during their vacation, so they can work during them, and that is also totally unsatisfactory," John de Graaf, president of the advocacy group Take Back Your Time, told The Guardian.


But it's important to take vacations.

For one thing, vacations make you happier.

Tourism "allows for an escape from the routine of daily life," according to a study reported by the National Institutes for Health. 

The study showed that vacationers are happier than non-vacationers both during and even before a trip — presumably because the anticipation of a future trip boosts a person's mood. For most, "the enjoyment starts weeks, even months, before the holiday actually begins," the study found.

And of course, overall happiness can be extremely beneficial to your health and may even increase life expectancy. 



Vacations can make you healthier.

Americans who take vacations enjoy many health benefits over their non-vacationing counterparts.

According to The Huffington Post, vacationers enjoy reduced stress, better mental health, and even more satisfying marriages.

Taking vacations also reduces your risk of heart disease. As Quartz reported, "Data collected in 1991 from a renowned ongoing longitudinal project started in 1948, called the Framingham study, shows that female homemakers who took vacation once every six years or less had nearly twice the risk of developing heart attacks or having a fatal heart problem than those who took time off at least twice a year."

Vacations can improve the quality of your work.

Many Americans are hesitant to take time off of work because they fear being seen as lazy. But vacations can actually pay dividends in the quality of your work, making you sharper and more productive.

Beach Chairs

Taking time away from a problem in an attempt to solve it may seem counter-intuitive, but it's often an effective way to give your brain the break it needs. And vacations are like the ultimate after-work shower. "Just as small breaks improve concentration, long breaks replenish job performance," according to The Atlantic.

"Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out," Francine Lederer, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist, told ABC News.

And traveling is about seeing the world. Go out and do it!

You work hard, so you should experience the best of what the world has to offer. Taking your vacation days is crucial. It's easier to travel the world today than at any other time in human history—so go do it.

Your vacation days are more than days off. They're a way to enhance your life.