“All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”. And we should add bitter and sick and inefficient and a bad friend and s-t-r-e-s-s-e-d out! Even with this age-old adage reminding us of the importance of “play,” more than 30 percent of North Americans do not use all their vacation days. Even when paid, approved and granted, these days often remain “banked and borrowed from.” Whether it is out of a fear of losing one’s position, a sense of competition (in the office or in one’s self), a lack of opportunity or some other unknown, it simply isn’t a good idea to let your vacation time go by without you; not for your mind, your health or your company. There is much research into the importance of daily downtime and quiet in order to give the mind and body the opportunity to reflect and rejuvenate, and this is no less true on the grander scale. It is essential that you take blocks of time to relax, refresh, reconnect and recharge in order for you to be a healthy, productive and happy person. There is no question that your body and soul require rest, repair, laughter, time, quiet, reflection, connection and play; these activities support a person’s emotional well-being, relationships, creativity and intelligence, physical health, problem solving ability and outlook on life. In proof (justification if you need), research has been done on the benefits of taking your time:
Taking time away from work and routine allows the body to replenish and repair itself. There are studies showing positive impact on many conditions, most notably cardiovascular disease. Further to a boost in the immune system, lower levels of infection and inflammation and a reduction in musculoskeletal conditions, vacation and leisure activities help to lower blood pressure and control waistlines. A variety of gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, inflammatory and metabolic disorders can be kept at bay if only you find time to both rest and play.
Vacations and “downtime” contribute to higher positive emotional levels and less stress, anxiety and depression. Studies have found that people who engaged in more leisure activities reported more life satisfaction, fewer negative emotions, tended to be more spiritually connected, and reported having a lot of support from family and friends making them feel more content. All aspects of mental health are encouraged by rest and relaxation….and a bit of laughter with loved ones.
Creativity and Intelligence Benefits
When the mind has some time and space to relax, its potential and ability begin to shine. When it isn’t focused on a specific task day in and out, it can access parts of the brain responsible for creativity, innovation and exploration. It reflects and problem solves and creates, but only when it isn’t forever working away at something or worrying about a stressed, tired and overworked system. Many people have some of their best ideas away from the job or at times when they are at rest (think when you wake up with a brilliant idea or when laughing with friends it all seems to make sense!) Without the pressure to respond to each crisis that arises, we have the opportunity to consider creative and innovative approaches. There is a lot of research that says in order for the brain to grow and create and build new pathways, it needs to be….bored! It refreshes and motivates the brain cells to relax.
When employees take vacations, businesses and the economy benefit. Often, employees report feeling better about their jobs and more productive after taking a vacation stating there is a restorative power in taking time off as it recharges and motivates them to work “better.” Workers who forgo their vacations aren’t doing themselves or their companies any favors. Even if they are physically present, they may have mentally checked out, and they often take more sick time, stress leaves, have a poorer attitude and waste time at work (the mind will take its holidays either way……). For example, if people are overworked, they’re surfing the Internet or daydreaming or taking extra breaks, they’re not contributing to the bottom line anyway.
Taking a vacation helps revive the heart (literally), rejuvenate your body, recharge your mind, and soothe your soul. It doesn’t need to be a grand and expensive getaway; only a break and opportunity to relax or play as you wish. Time is the most valuable thing you have; it’s time to start treating it that way….