It’s officially summer!
This is the time of year when you are able to relax with your family and take that well-earned vacation to a location that you’ve been waiting for. Whether your travels take you to a remote beach in the South Pacific, an exciting urban landscape like Tokyo, or a fun local road trip, it is so important for you to enjoy time away from the rigors of your typical daily work.
The sobering statistics
In the United States, we only average 10 days of vacation, and we typically leave 9 days of vacation on the table1. One in four Americans do not reportedly take any paid time off whatsoever. To make matters worse, 61% of Americans say that they do some form of work on their vacations2.
In fact, the U.S. is the only developed country that does not have any federal laws that guarantee an amount of paid time off or sick days (or even national holidays). On the other hand, many first world European countries pride themselves on a minimum of four weeks off per year, including the Netherlands, the U.K., Germany, France, and most of Scandinavia.
Why you should ask for more vacation…
Creativity, Happiness and Energy
In his seminal 2009 TED talk, graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister recounted the true power of taking time off. He should know. As the founder of renowned design studio Sagmeister & Walsh, he takes one year off of work every 7 years. Rather than have 15 years of retirement at the end of his life, he would rather space it out evenly throughout his lifetime. He claims that his creativity, happiness, and energy levels have never been higher. (Do yourself a favor, and give this a watch!)
This makes sense when you realize how powerful your brain is. Although your brain is only about 2 percent of your overall body weight, it requires a staggering 20% of your overall energetic and caloric requirements. Just like any other muscle, the brain must be rested and properly cared for. In addition, your frontal lobe – responsible for creativity, reasoning, and decision making – connects and synthesizes information best when it is not in use. This is why so many famous minds have had well-known discoveries in the shower, in their sleep, or during exercise.
Vacations are especially critical because they help mitigate chronic stress. Under a constant state of stress, your body will release high levels of cortisol, a hormone that is evolutionarily responsible for restoring homeostasis following exposure to stress. However, under chronically high levels, this can cause damage to the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory3.
In our April blog, we learned our brains evolved in nature, and there were numerous “downtimes” whereby we were forced to rest and recover. Naturally, with fewer external stimulants and influences, our brains were able to recharge and remain alert and sharp after this strategic rest. Given the massive influx of new stimulants our ancestors were never confronted with, doesn’t it make sense to rest even more than before?
The perfect vacation…
If you’re waiting for the “perfect time” to take a vacation, rest assured that it will rarely feel right. And if you’re afraid to take a longer vacation to an exotic location, start smaller and work your way up! Even taking a couple of nights at a local hotel with a loved one, or a fun camping trip with friends can work wonders! So do yourself a huge favor this summer and take a well-deserved break. Your brain will thank you later.