With Memorial Day a few weeks away, the inevitable start of summer is right around the corner. Although the new season brings warmer weather and fantasies of lounging by a pool or beach, for many of us those dreams remain just that...a dream hoped for but not attained. If you're like any of the 52 percent of Americans working today, chances are you haven't taken a vacation in quite a while. In fact, more than 705 million vacation days went unused just a little over a year ago.
If you think you're doing a favor for your company by depriving yourself of some much-needed rest and relaxation, you're only fooling yourself. Research suggests that a drop of nature is like a drop of morphine to the brain. According to Eva M. Selhub, Harvard physician and co-author of Your Brain on Nature, "it stimulates reward neurons in your brain. It turns off the stress response which means you have lower cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and improved immune response." The summer sunshine will actually boost your brain function and increase productivity.
How about that as an argument for taking some time off and hitting the beach.
And there's even more benefits to taking time off from work. Sabine Sonnentag, professor of organizational psychology at the University of Mannheim in Germany found that disengaging from work while not at work actually makes us more resilient in the face of stress. Stepping away from your work reduces stress and allows you to check-in and remember what it is about your job that excites you.
There's also the myriad of health benefits that come from taking a vacation. Researchers from the State University of New York at Oswego surveyed 12,000 men ages 35-57 and found that those who didn't take at least one week-long vacation per year increased their risk for dying from heart disease by 30 percent.
But perhaps that best reason to take a vacation is because you're investing in you. When you take time off and travel to new places or experience new things, you increase your opportunity to meet new people that can ignite your curiosity and creativity. Your new relationships and memories will enhance your personal and professional life, which will keep you refreshed and focused when it's time to get back to the grind.