by Henry Moore
We need to reorient the way we think about vacation. Guilt that comes from taking time off of work needs to be forgotten. Science has shown us that time off from work in the form of a vacation is much more than just, well, time off from work. It is its own unique form of medicine for our minds and bodies. Vacation and the experiences inherent to traveling have been shown to provide mental health benefits that are invaluable
Healthy Work is All About Moderation and Balance
We all must work in some form, and for most of us, a steady occupation provides significant health benefits. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians is not alone in its findings that maintaining a ‘good’ level of work has many health benefits. Most people derive much of their identity from their professional status and career, and it has also been found that prolonged periods of unemployment carry negative health consequences, lowered self-esteem and depression being two of them.
With that said, moderation in work is key. Good work and bad work – or work that exceeds healthy levels of human output – are different things. Overworking can be as detrimental to our health as good work is beneficial. Employers should, and often do, care about the health of their employees. Overworked, depressed workers show decreased productivity that is often a burden on employers, which is one of the reasons vacation days are a vital part of most employers’ practices.
The reasons people overwork themselves are many. Lack of professional control, unhealthy levels of ambition, stress about finances, and even a subconscious need to cope with trauma may drive somebody to an unhealthy level of professional exertion. Regardless of the motivation, overworked employees are universal in the health consequences they are subjecting themselves to.
The Japanese are not alone in the negative effects experienced from overworking, but cultural mores make it a case-study for the dire implications of widespread workaholism. Overwork-related suicide is on the rise in the island nation, and young people are increasingly seeking compensation for treatment they feel is necessitated by overly strenuous professional routines, according to the Huffington Post. The Harvard Business Review found that problems related to overwork are not relegated to Japan, which might seem obvious. The mental and physical health consequences of overworking mean that vacation days are not a luxury, they are a necessity.
Travel, it is Good for Your Health
If one wants to make the most of their personal and travel days, do not spend a day binging on Netflix or staying in your home town. Get out, explore new places, and engage in experiences outside of your routine and comfort zone.
Travel provides health benefits across the board, from perceptions of wellness to mental efficacy. Because these benefits tend to diminish after one returns from vacation, consistently traveling is best in order to maximize these mental and physical boosts that result from traveling. This may mean allotting your travel days into shorter, more frequent vacations instead of using them on only one or two trips.
Vacations that incorporate volunteer activities have been found to check off four motivations that good people almost universally share. These include the need to give back to others, camaraderie that arises from shared volunteerism, a desire for cultural immersion, and family cohesion. We also know that immersion in nature provides mental and physical health perks, so incorporating volunteering, nature, and travel to a new destination may be the ideal trifecta to maximize the health benefits proven to arise from travel.
One specific demographic that may find travel especially necessary, and particularly rewarding, are those in recovery from addiction. Travel has been shown to provide new perspectives on life, and experiencing new activities, cultures, and locations can stimulate the brain and pleasure centers in a way that is similar to substances. The difference is that traveling is an extremely healthy, natural way to derive pleasure, while addiction is not.
Work has many benefits, both health-wise and financially. Overworking does not. One provides a sense of purpose, a means to financial gain, and the opportunity for daily mental stimulation. The other drives our psyches into depression, often resulting in a sense of stagnation, hopelessness, and in many cases even suicide. Fortunately, vacation can serve as a buffer between healthy work habits and unhealthy ones. Planning frequent vacations and taking advantage of your travel days is a means to a healthier, happier life.