Four Scientific Reasons You Have to Give Yourself a Vacation

May 17th 2016

Colonial Williamsburg

You’re grumpy. You’re tired. You’re unproductive. You’re slow.

And why are you like this? Because you need a vacation.

And you're not alone — Americans fail to use 429 million vacation days every year, according to a study by Oxford Economics in 2013. While lost vacation time squanders countless economic benefits, the bottom line is that our non-stop work habits are unhealthy. Here are four reasons why:

1. Vacations make you happy.

It may sound obvious to say that vacations make us happy, but the ways they make you happy are surprising. Outside of the happiness acquired when you’re in the throes of a deep tan or wandering historic sites, there’s an uptick in your happiness before and after your trip. A 2010 study revealed that the anticipation leading up to your bon voyage keeps you abuzz with joy. And while post-vacation blues may suck you into a nostalgia hangover (although there's no proof that post-vacation depression exists), experts say that you can continue bathing in warm vacation happiness after your trip by looking at photos or reminiscing about the sights and sounds of your vacation.

An added bonus of happiness? Being happy means you can open your eyes to see more. Seriously. "Good and bad moods literally change the way our visual cortex operates and how we see," said Adam Anderson, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.

2. Vacations do your body good.

There are many ways a vacation is good for your health. For one, they help your heart: those who don’t take trips put themselves at risk of a heart attack. Second, vacations are the ultimate stress reliever because they break the neverending stress cycle of working every day. Third, vacations have the power to lower your blood pressure. Lastly, returning from a vacation resets the mind and activates a better perspective on life. That’s definitely something you need.

3. Vacations fuel creativity.

Vacations clear your mind, and that means you’ll be more creative and able to approach problems with a fresh perspective. And? That means more “aha moments.”

Creating distance from your home is important, too. Psychologists have found that people who are removed from common surroundings think more creatively because it materializes a phenomena called psychological distance. Maybe it’s time we all start working remotely, eh?

4. Vacations make you smarter.

​So you’re happy, healthy, and your creative juices are flowing. What else can go right?! Well, you’re actually smarter because of your vacation. It’s been shown that vacations help prevent dementia and Alzheimer's Disease — something that's clearly great. Moreover, all that peppy pre-trip anticipation means you’re also studying up on different cultures, filling your brain with loads of new information. You can take this a step further with educational tourism, which can range from fun immersion trips to actual schooling. And who says learning while vacationing shouldn’t be an excused absence?