Why Holidays Are Important For Our Health
By Dr Lynda Shaw, neuroscientist, business psychologist and change specialist.
This past year has been unprecedented and incredibly difficult for all causing a surge in reports of stress, anxiety and depression. And did you know that 212 million days of annual leave are forfeited every year? This can’t help can it. Whether you’re considering a staycation or are eyeing up one of the countries on Britain’s green list, taking a holiday is so important for our health, here is why…
1. Holidays reinforce social bonds… Quality time with family and friends strengthens social bonds. Being pack animals, humans rely on a strong social infrastructure for support during tough times which is needed now more than ever. Also, spending time with your children boosts their confidence, self-esteem and sense of security.
2. Holidays improve physical health… Overworking the body and mind by depriving yourself of periods of rest creates an imbalance in hormone levels and increases inflammatory processes. This weakens the immune system, making you more susceptible to colds, viruses and other related health problems such as hypertension. Taking time off work prevents sickness and the onset of other serious medical conditions like heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. Indeed, research shows that 73% of people get some form of health benefit when taking a leisure holiday*.
3. Holidays decrease burnout… Symptoms of workplace burnout are thought to have increased by 24% in 2020 and it is predicted that cases will reach a record high this year. Burnout can influence every aspect of our lives from relationships to physical and mental health. Taking time off to relax is key to tackling burnout as this helps to ease feelings of stress, anxiety and alleviates pressure.
4. Holidays improve mental health… A study found that three days after a holiday, travellers felt well-rested, less anxious and happier overall, leading researchers to predict a causal link between holidays and improved health*. However, reverse effects can occur when we overwork the mind and do not allow ourselves time off to relax. This can cause trouble sleeping, mood swings, short temperedness, poor memory, diminished focus and confusion. More serious mental health problems can also occur like anxiety and depression.
5. Holidays give us time to catch up on sleep… Whilst we go through the stages of sleep the brain consolidates memories and flushes out toxins that have built up during the day with the help of cerebral spinal fluid, therefore sleep is vitally important in both learnings and restoration. Lack of sleep is highly damaging. Holidays allow us to catch up on lost hours which are essential for healthy brain function such as problem solving, memory and creativity.
6. Holidays help the brain to process memories… In one study 55% of adults say that family holidays gave them happy memories and ones that will stay with them for the rest of their lives*. Precious satisfying times preparing us for our return to work and normal home life.
7. Holidays boost levels of physical activity… Lots of Brits still do not engage in enough physical activity in their day to day lives. A government study in 2018 found that 25% of people aged 16 years and over in England were categorised as ‘physically inactive’ – that is, they did less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a week*. Holidays are a great way for people to get their bodies moving and spend more time outside which is hugely beneficial to our health. A short walk outside can decrease levels of stress, lower blood pressure, improve focus, slow aging, allow us to heal faster and simply make us happier! Exercise also boosts our creativity by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
8. Holidays inspire us to try new things… like learning about a new culture, open water swimming, an open air cinema, a segway, a barge trip, a new type of food or footgolf. Step out of your comfort zone and expand your mind by trying new things. This broadens your horizons, increases productivity, creativity, inspiration and your pool of knowledge.
9. Holidays sharpen our minds… Not only does spending more time resting make us more efficient, boosts creativity and improve problem solving skills, but giving your brain a break from the daily activities you undertake at work and at home by doing something new helps establish stronger connections in the brain. The curiosity of novel situations stimulates learning too. Even reading those books you’ve been looking forward to will contribute to improved brain function.
10. Holidays boost new ways of thinking… When we are overwhelmed at work we can’t think clearly, we can’t be innovative or come up with new ideas. But when we are on holiday we slow down, the brain more readily operates in alpha frequency which we can accomplish by staring out to sea or relaxing in a hammock or simply watching the world go by. As a result, we are far more creative and come up with new ways of thinking. Perfect for work and life.