It’s commonly understood that taking vacation days provides a significant mental health benefit.
But does vacation also allow us to better develop our work lives? A study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior finds that all of that is true, and that vacation is really good for our health.
Researchers ran a study involving 120 students who completed self-reports of their mood and general well-being. Half of the participants went on vacation the first week of the semester, while the other half remained in class. On their vacations, the participants were told to eat and rest regularly throughout the weekend, and to exercise and relax as much as they could over the weekend.
The researchers found that this schedule improved their mood and well-being dramatically. Participants who used vacation days had fewer bad moods and lower levels of depression than those who stayed in class. They were also more likely to be engaged with their studies on their vacation, and they had higher happiness levels and a healthier overall lifestyle.
Laws and employee benefits should encourage short term vacation to allow us to rebuild our mental, physical, and social health from a work-based perspective
Why does such a simple change have such a dramatic effect on mental well-being? What else might be involved? And what might other workplace policies do to promote healthier days off?
Practices that build on the previous steps of the vacation schedule could be key to promoting healthier days off. First, the study members observed that students who went on vacation were more likely to take physical exercise while they were gone. Many young people are uncomfortable taking time off, particularly in the summer, so letting them come back to school after their long-planned vacations would allow them to take physical exercise and socialize before they even return.
Vacation Days just make sense…
Second, there is evidence that having paid holidays encourages employees to take their vacation days more often than employees without paid holidays. This, in turn, may lead to an easier transition from school to work, and it could also contribute to maintaining or boosting their mental health and well-being in the days afterward.
Finally, sharing a “work-based” vacation schedule with employees could also make it easier for employers to include policies about clean, healthy food at work. Focusing on having healthy days off as part of a broader “work-life balance” would allow companies to promote healthy choices, encourage employees to get food at work, and offer employee and management feedback on employee behaviors that promote healthy eating and exercise.
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