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Why vacations keep you healthy

A woman stands with her arms spread wide, staring at the sky.

April 8, 2022—Does taking time off work sound like more work than it's worth? You aren't alone. In 2017, more than half of American employees surveyed by Project: Time Off left unused vacation days on the table. For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic made the decision to travel even more complicated.

But it might be time to plan some downtime.

Why it's good to get away

Vacations are important for both your mental and physical health.

According to the Framingham Heart Study, men who skipped vacations for several years were 30% more likely to have a heart attack than those who used at least some of their vacation time. That's not surprising when you consider the fact that vacations can help lower stress and blood pressure.

But it turns out that jetting off to new locations is also good for brain health. Getting out of your comfort zone challenges your mind and builds brain resilience.

Better than couples therapy?

Another benefit: Taking a trip with your significant other may improve the health of your relationship. According to AARP, research shows that women who vacationed frequently were more satisfied with their marriages than those who did not.

You're also more likely to be sexually intimate with your partner on vacation rather than at home, which has its mental and physical health benefits too.

3 ideas for your next vacation

After you give yourself the green light to get away, it's time to pick your destination. Try one of these three ideas to get your inner travel bug buzzing:

Go for distance. Visit a part of the country you haven't been to before. And take time to explore. Learning about a new landscape will exercise your brain and may even boost your happiness. A study by the University of Vermont found that the farther travelers journeyed from home, the higher their happiness levels rose.

Take a camping trip. Being outdoors reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression and lowers stress levels. It's also an inexpensive option if you're on a tight budget—and it's a great way to get out of your comfort zone while continuing to practice social distancing.

Plan a staycation. Speaking of being on a tight budget, staycations are an alternative if leaving town is too spendy. The trick to a staycation is finding ways to make your hometown new again. Try heading to a museum or park you've never had time for, or go explore another neighborhood. Something as simple as choosing a new restaurant can be enough to get you out of your comfort zone. Just remember that your staycation is a time to recharge. Avoid spending it on household chores or workplace correspondence.

Whatever getaway you choose, remember to leave your vacation guilt behind. You earned your time off, and you'll be a sharper employee when you come back.

Already have a destination in mind? Make sure you are up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccines. And remember to check for any travel recommendations and requirements before you go.

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