Short Vacation Health Benefits, Is 4 Days As Good As 14?:
When we think about time-off from work, it seems like a mandatory large-scale production.
And certainly, that comes to mind when we think about Summer Vacations.
Huge blocks of time that have to be set aside months ahead and taken all at once.
Like temporarily going into a Jason Bourne state, forgetting who you are, and living someone-else’s life. -Just without all the fistfights.
But what if I told you that SCIENCE! has some different ideas about that? Especially how long you need to be gone…
The Long-Weekend-Warrior Reigns Victorious!:
Now research has shown that vacations really are important for our health.
But we always think they have to be big, they have to be taken all-at-once,
That it can be “Too Late” to take one by a certain time like the end of a season,
And most-of-all, you don’t get the benefits if you don’t do it exactly this way.
But Dr. Cornelia Blank’s research on vacations as small as 4-Days shows if they’re done right, you get nearly the same health-benefits of a 14+ day grand-tour.
So read-on to find out the details.
First, The Science On Big Vacations:
It has been shown time and time again by productivity experts, employers, and big-time psychosomatic-health researchers like Karen Matthews that vacations are scientifically healthy.
Even when controlling for income and other factors, Karen’s team found through crunching-data from 1400 subjects in the MRFIT study,
Vacations make people healthier, reduce stress, and lower the incidence of cardiovascular-diseases like congestive heart-failure.
Even SUNY Oswego re-crunched some of the data from the legendary Framingham Heart Study for specifics, and found that men who took those vacations reduced their cardiovascular-problems similar to CHF by 20-30%.
But That Research Is On 14-Days, What About The Shorter Vacations Of 7 or 4?:
That research still falls into-line with the narrative of bigger vacations.
BUT a tantalizing part of Karen’s results suggests “more frequent” is better.
So for awhile we were out of luck. -Until Cornelia Blank’s team came in and tried to answer that question:
“Can we still make something out of the end of the summer/season?”
And the answer is a resounding Yes!
We were all incredulous, so previously the shortest vacation ever studied had been 7 days.
But Cornelia went even-further, right down to the level of a long-weekend getaway. -4 days.
Cornelia Blank Gets Results On The Long-Weekend-Warrior:
And after studying the (admittedly-small) group of 20 participants, the research indicated that stress levels were immediately affected in a positive way,
And this effect also lasted from 30 to 45 days later!
An important note is this result only held true for people who took their breaks in a different place.
Those subjects who took their 4-day breaks at-home showed no improvement in perceived Stress, though their other areas of subjective well-being did improve.
What Physical & Mental Factors Does A 4-Day Vacation Improve?:
In-fact, the list of perceived-improvements she found is as-follows:
4) Mental Energy-Levels
5) Ability to Concentrate
7) Physical Pain
8) Physical Fatigue
9) Physical Relaxation
10) Sleep Quality
11) Reduced Conflict
14) Internal Tension
15) Internal Happiness
16) External Demand-Pressure
What Benefits Does A 4-Day Vacation Have Over 14+ Days?:
Furthermore, there are even some benefits to a shorter-vacation that may Not accrue to those taking longer ones:
1) A 4-day vacation feels like you’ve gotten A Lot “Done” in a short time.
1a) So it doesn’t Feel as short as it really is.
2) Shorter vacations may induce Less Stress with respect to your Job,
2a) There is a smaller pile of Accumulated-Work waiting when you return.
3) If your vacations are shorter, you can take them More-Frequently in the year.
4) Positive-Behaviors re-introduced on a vacation will be refreshed more-frequently if the number of breaks/year goes up.
5) The Overall Cost will of-course be lower, despite higher-rates for short lead-times.
5a) So a little Less Financial Stress happens as a result, and the dreaded, “Wait, how are we going to pay for this again?” happens less often.
6) Reduced Mental-Stress over the logistics of huge luggage, valuables, and what you bring/forget.
But What Are The Remaining Risks?:
1) There is Less Room-For-Error, so they have to be better-planned to maximize benefit.
1a) Poor planning & execution still equals Disappointment!
2) Cornelia’s results suggest some kind of Physical-Activity is also key.
3) The study also restricted Family from coming-along, which may confound results one way or another.
4) Anticipation is still key, so you should still plan your short-vacation ahead of time, so you can still reap those benefits
5) The End and the Beginning should still be the high-points, even though they’re closer in-time
6) You must still avoid the temptation to do Anything Work-Related, or you will lose the health-benefits.
6a) This may be a greater-risk with the Return-Date being so close in-time.
7) Just like any other vacation, you should also schedule a certain amount of time to Do Absolutely Nothing but rest.
7a) That includes getting some awesome Sleep if you can.
8) You will have less time to reap the psychological benefits of Anticipation and Memories, from tight departure & return dates.
9) The internal-reasons of Why to travel, such as Excesses, Problems and Needs will still apply, so plan according to them.
But still all the researchers note, the best way to reduce stress at work is to be in the best possible job for you in the first-place, and not just medicate-away less than optimal choices with multiple 4-day excursions.
Research Gets Small. More Evidence Of “Vacation” Benefits, For Timeframes:
Here’s the kicker, Karen’s other research states that even sporadic leisure activities, in the context of a working-life makes people healthier, reduces stress, and the incidence of stress-related illness and disease; -again, most of it cardiovascular in-nature.
So even the smallest of hobby-like “Vacations” like the proverbial “CALGON! TAKE ME AWAAAAY!”, really do have health and cardiovascular impacts that can be measured by real scientific study and not the guys who chase alien-conspiracies on The History Channel.
Even More Evidence For Vacation Benefits, The Micro-Level Of Short Breaks:
To get even a little bit weirder, researchers at the University of Illinois have also found something valuable in mental-breaks smaller.
Employees who consistently took small breaks at work just to distract themselves or clear their head periodically through the day had higher measured productivity-ratings.
A Few Suggestions & Reminders That Apply Regardless Of Vacation Duration:
1) Remember, all the studies also show vacations are not-at-all the type of Rest you get on the Weekends; especially at-home.
2) Happiness does equal healthiness, so keep it as positive as you can!
3) The Beginning and The End still have the biggest impact.
4) Some form of Do-Nothing Time may be important to you, so don’t neglect that, even if it’s just 1 afternoon.
5) Resist the Urge to Compare yourself and your vacation to others. Your psyche will thank you.
6) Concentrate on Experiences Instead of Things to maximize your happiness.
7) Try writing in a pen & Paper Journal.
8) Eat fantastic & New Food.
9) You MUST Unplug from Digital-Obsessions!
9a) Pare Down all procedures and gadgets to the bare-minimum.
9b) Reducing Complexity will put your mind in a non-workday mode, like Daniel Kahneman’s “Experiencing-Self”.
9c) This lets you live that break to the utmost due to the Focus-shift.
9d) Try desperately to Avoid Digital Habits of checking the same websites, emails, texts, and social media you do every other day of your life.
10) Don’t forget the subtle-yet-powerful benefits of Getting Out Into Nature when making your plans.
10) Treat Yo-Self! Get a silly little Souvenir, or Post-Card or two.
10a) Maybe even Send One Out to a good friend from where you are, as if it were a huge deal just for laughs.
11) Whatever you do, Make Life Special!
Consider The Psychosomatic Benefits Of Vacation By Diagnosis
Try examining yourself to go get something your soul Needs, and not just go do something mindless.
Analyze your psyche to make the time count!
One way to do this without a professional therapist is to answer 3 main questions:
1) What do you have too much of?
2) What are your main problems?
3) What do you need most? (you can literally Meditate on that last one if you have to)
Yes, it’s really simple, but as long as you can find a safe solution, why not try The Opposite of what’s excessively out of balance in your life?
Consider getting outside your comfort-zone. It may just make you grow as a person. A little fun version of “fish out of water” is good for the soul now and then.
Lastly, For The Frazzled. Prepare Your Mind:
Try to either let your mind wander about where you are, or if you can’t stop thinking about work or home,
Then practice or get training in Mindfulness-Meditation ahead of time until you’re good at it,
So on the trip you can skillfully bring yourself back to the amazing present of the here-and-now in your new place.
Honestly, going someplace new & interesting can do a lot of the work of that pulling-focus for you,
But you might need the mindfulness, as short-vacations to the other side of the world are not feasible for most of us who don’t own our own private Concorde jets.
Without getting too much more silly, it’s clear that even a getaway as short as 4-Days can have positive health-benefits.
And in-spite of user-responses from studies like ones by Jessica De Bloom,
Where subjects report the same level of happiness a few days after their return,
(which even Jessica says is like questioning the value of sleep retroactively)
The health-outcomes tell a very different story.
So don’t let season-endings, short-schedules, or even the spectre of “Hedonic Adaptation” scare you away.
Get out there and use just a few job-allotted free days to change your life.
A short-vacation will produce health benefits and your literal and metaphorical hearts will thank you (even Walter Mitty wasn’t gone that long).
Photo, “Cinque Terre”, by gianni testore
Video, Theatrical Trailer for “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty”, by Ben Stiller, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., John Goldwyn, Stuart Cornfeld, Steve Conrad, James Thurber, Samuel Goldwyn Films, Red Hour Productions, New Line Cinema, TSG Entertainment, and 20th Century Fox
• Source Studies:
• Int.J.Env.Rsch&PubHealth – Short Vacation Improves Stress-Level and Well-Being in German-Speaking Middle-Managers—A Randomized Controlled Trial
•StressHealth – Effects of short vacations, vacation activities and experiences on employee health and well-being
• J.PsychoSomMed – Are Vacations Good for Your Health? The 9-Year Mortality Experience After the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial
• J.PsychoSomMed – Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being