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Yes, you need a holiday, right now!

Yes, you need a holiday, right now!

The benefits of taking a break, according to science.

"The key elements of a successful vacation include total detachment from work, and real relaxation."

After more than three years of COVID, lockdowns, Zoom fatigue, and heightened levels of stress, it’s time to take a vacation.

Remote working may have fooled us into thinking we were taking it easier, but a Harvard Business School study found that remote working has lengthened the average workday by almost 49 minutes.

Which is why it’s time to start taking your vacation seriously, especially if you’re interested in your long-term health.

In 2019, the World Health Organisation added burnout as an occupational phenomenon characterised by feelings of exhaustion, disassociation from or negative feelings about your job, and reduced efficacy.

The knock-on effects of burnout and stress, ranging from sleeplessness and cardiovascular disease to depression and hormonal imbalances, can also wreak havoc on your health.

While these negative consequences can be managed, taking vacations has been shown to be an effective way to keep yourself healthy.

The Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial for the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease, which followed 12 000 men over a nine-year period, found that men who took frequent annual vacations were less likely to die from heart disease.

These findings supported those of the landmark Framingham Heart Study, the largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease, following 14 000 people over the course of three generations.

This research included women and found that those who took a vacation once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack, compared to those who took time off at least twice a year.

More recent studies have focused on how vacations contribute to wellness.

Researchers at Tampere University in Finland followed almost 300 German workers over two years and found that regular and sustained vacation time is necessary for mental health.

In their study, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, they also revealed that key elements of a successful vacation include total detachment from work (no emails, calls, or check-ins) and real relaxation, meaning a restful experience that doesn’t generate additional stress.

However, they also found that the positive mental health effects are short-lived after a return to work. Which is why they recommend taking regular breaks.

Luckily, a similar study conducted in the Netherlands and published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life suggests that the more vacation time people take, the more they are “increasingly able to derive benefits from their holidays in terms of fulfilment, enjoyment, and happiness”.

This study also points to the importance of making holidays relaxing.

“Holiday trips are not always pleasant experiences,” writes the study authors, citing homesickness, health problems, culture shock, and relationship issues as stressors.

The Tampere University study showed that a holiday of more than a week is most ideal, and that people only really start unwinding from day eight.

But if you’re unable to take off that length of time, simply planning a trip can improve your frame of mind.

A study at the Brunel University of London found that people waiting to go on holiday are much happier with their life as a whole, and experience less negative or unpleasant feelings

There’s never been a better time or reason to book your stress-free holiday.

Lena Sotherin

Change expert, Lena Sotherin, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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