With Easter approaching and school holidays just around the corner it may be your opportune time to take a holiday! In our busy, fast paced lives it can be difficult to take the time out, however the health benefits are well worth it (if you need any convincing)!
There is some research to suggest that you will benefit both short term as well as long term from taking some time out.
Short breaks, a weekend or Easter long weekend help to manage stress and lower blood pressure. You might know the feeling that the weekend has disappeared and already you’re back at work on Monday suffering from Mondayitis! However the research suggests that these short breaks, even the rest in the evening away from work is beneficial for your psychological and physical health.
A ‘holiday health experiment’ conducted by Nuffield Health, the UK’s largest health charity sent some (lucky) people in the study to a destination (Maldives, Thailand or Peru) for a holiday and the (less fortunate) others in the experiment stayed at home and continued to work. All participants underwent clinical and psychological tests and wore heart monitors.
They found as many as a third of workers do not take their full holiday entitlement each year. The study also found that those who had the holiday had decreased blood glucose levels, reducing the risk of diabetes, they had improved body shape (losing weight around their middles) and improved energy levels and mood.
Taking a holiday may also help you to manage your stress when returning to work. The stressors (things that cause you stress) may remain, however your resilience (ability to cope with stress) improves which allows for greater productivity, better energy levels, improved mood and greater satisfaction in life.
There are musculoskeletal benefits to holidays also where you take a break from prolonged sitting or regular lifting/bending that may be required at work. As osteopaths and chiropractors we often hear how your back pain, neck pain or headaches ease whilst away from your work situation, only to return when you’re back in front of the computer again!
Still not convinced? Ok, there are also benefits that extend to your relationships too. Another study led by Purdue University Zinran Lehto discovered that family vacations contribute positively to family bonding, communication and solidarity. Holidays create ‘shared experience’ which fosters growing and enduring connections. Even families that are not particularly close may benefit from this time together and help to promote these positive ties.
Remember some of those holidays that you had whilst growing up with your family. I know they are some of my fondest memories as a child. Is it time to book a holiday to create those shared experiences with your loved ones?
There are even more benefits suggested in the literature such as broadening of horizons, the opportunity to learn from intercultural experiences, promotion of understanding of different cultures, personal and social development and subjective wellbeing.
So here’s 7 tips when planning your next holiday:
- Plan ahead – reduce the stress of planning a holiday by doing it ahead and having the added benefit of a holiday to look forward to. I can already visualise the place where we are having our next holiday and I’m looking forward to it already!
- Stay within your budget – whether it’s an overseas adventure, a camping trip, house rented on the coast or ‘stay-cation’ (where you may even stay at home). The value of the holiday is not determined by the cost of the holiday so don’t add stress by spending more than you need to for your time off.
- Incorporate some physical activity or skilled activities in your holiday – gardening at home, painting, surfing, bushwalking or cycling. These different activities will help to break habitual thought patterns and may be more refreshing than just spending all the time by the pool or watching movies.
- Spend time in social situations – try and spend some of your time off with friends or relatives – this will help benefit your mental and physical wellbeing.
- Stay sun safe – ensure you enjoy your time in the outdoors and get adequate Vit D levels without damaging your skin. Read our previous article here about just how much sun you should expose yourself to each day.
- If you still need to do some work or study whilst away – factor in a small portion of each day to check your emails or study. This will allow you to relax the rest of the day without feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work awaiting you on your return.
- Take a break from technology – have some ‘technology free’ time during your break where you avoid checking your phone, step away from the laptop or tablet and have ‘TV free’ days. In fact, there are ‘Digital Detox Retreats’ now where you can go off the grid to allow for creative thinking, personal development and to be truly present in the moment. Whether you go on a retreat or just learn to ‘switch the devices off’ for a while you will benefit from this time disconnected.
Have a great Easter and enjoy the health benefits of your next holiday!
Article written by Dr Melanie Woollam (Osteopath)
Lehto, X.Y., Choi, S. et al (2009). Vacation and family functioning. Annals of Tourism Research. 36, 459-479.
Kuoni & Nuffield Health. The holiday health report. (2013). http://www.nuffieldhealth.com