5 Health Benefits of Taking a Summer Vacation Now - Parsley Health
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Health Concerns

5 Health Benefits of Taking a Summer Vacation Now

February 28, 2019

If you still think taking time off to do sweet nothing is self-indulgent and ‘unprofitable,’ think again.

Skipping town to truly disconnect might be one of the best things you could do for your body, your brain, and yes, your job.

Several studies have demonstrated how overall performance increases significantly after taking a break – of any duration. We accept this concept when it comes to physical stuff, easily skipping a workout for a ‘rest day’ or declining a night of partying for TV and take-out instead.

But when does your mind ever get a break?

And let’s be honest, is a few hours of Netflix and Seamless with wine enough of a break…even for your body?

Many of our patients at Parsley suffer from diseases of modern lifestyle – abdominal weight gain, high blood pressure, joint pain, high blood sugar and insomnia – all because of the neurohormonal repercussions of chronic stress.

The only way to effectively lower chronic stress is to actively recharge by stepping out – completely out – of your modern stressful lifestyle.

Here’s what else will happen to you if you book, and take, your summer vacation now:

1. You’ll live longer.

The phrase ” giving me grey hairs” is real. Stress is in fact pro-aging. People who take fewer vacations are more likely to have a heart attack or die of heart disease compared to those who take regular vacations  (two or more annually), according to an analysis of the Framingham Heart Study (1), which followed women for two decades and found that the frequency of vacations was a strong predictor of future heart attacks and coronary death.

2. You’ll lose weight.

Has your weight ever stabilized or dropped on vacation, even though you’re eating whatever you want and not working out?  This surprises many people, but at Parsley we get the science behind it. It’s based on the fact that forcing “self-control” for daily workouts and restrictive eating is stressful, exhausting and elicits the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous response, which disrupts your metabolism.

A study at the University of Pittsburgh, of nearly 1,400 people, showed that those who spent the most downtime had a lower body mass index and waist circumference (2) — two key predictors of overall health.

3. Your body will begin to heal itself.

Parsley founder Dr Robin Berzin recently told Forbes that “Truly disconnecting on vacation is one of the most important things you can do for your health and overall well-being. Research on medical students showed that wounds healed more slowly in exam time than when they were on vacation —an example of how chronically elevated cortisol impairs the immune system.” You read that right. Your body actually heals slower under stress which interferes with the body’s natural repair processes (3).

4. You’ll be better at making decisions.

In How We Decide, author Jonah Lehrer says: “The human brain wasn’t designed to deal with such a surfeit of data. As a result, we are constantly exceeding the capacity of our prefrontal cortices, feeding them more facts and figures than they can handle. It’s like trying to run a new computer program on an old machine; the antique microchips try to keep up, but eventually they fizzle out.”  Give your brain a break. Do a back-up and shut down.

5. You’ll have brighter ideas and increase your creativity.

When you’re doing ‘nothing’ your brain is actually doing very important work, like coming up with creative solutions to complex problems (4).  The lost art of daydreaming born out of  ‘boredom’ has been filled with mindless scrolling on our ‘smart’ devises and other empty events like the trivial pursuit of Pokemon. Unfortunately your 5 minutes of morning mind-wondering in the shower isn’t gonna be enough to solve the ’99 problems’ we all have.

More good news!

Longer is better.  Research out of Radboud University in the Netherlands showed that health and wellbeing outcomes increased quickly during vacation, but peaked on the eighth vacation day (5).

Summer ain’t over till the fat lady sings. Get your boredom on. Book that trip.

There is always time for downtime, if you make it.


References:

  1. Framingham Heart Study – American Journal of Epidemiology 
  2. Pittsburg Weight study –
  3.  Psychological stress and wound healing – Pubmed.
  4. Back to the future: autobiographical planning and the functionality of mind-wandering – Pubmed 
  5. Vacation (after-) effects on employee health and well-being, and the role of vacation activities, experiences and sleep – Journal of Happiness Studies. 

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