Vacation Is Just What the Doctor Ordered

Maybe you think you’re doing your boss a favor by skipping that vacation… or just “forgetting” to use those comp days and sick days that seem to be always adding up.  Think again!  Research shows that taking vacations makes us happier, healthier, and more productive.  And now, as the new year begins, Dr. Leigh Vinocur, a board certified emergency physician and national spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians — also currently acting as the Diamond Resorts International Vacation Doctor — shares why our top resolution to stay happy and healthy should include some much needed time off.

As Diamond Resorts International rolled out their Stay Vacationed awareness platform to educate consumers and employers about the documented benefits of regular vacations to health, productivity and relationships, Dr. Vinocur was excited to join them.

“I was drawn to Diamond Resorts because of the research they conducted with Nielsen Research that corroborates my already existing beliefs and observations,” she said.  “As an emergency room doctor, I see patients at a point where preventive treatment is no longer an option. Many of their health issues could be avoided by circumventing stress.  And one of the biggest stressors in America is overwork. We do not take time for ourselves. Time that allows us to unwind and de-stress.”

That Nielsen Research study she mentioned was commissioned by Diamond Resorts, and shows that — no surprise! — vacations are linked to our health, happiness and productivity.

Straw hat, bag, sun glasses and flip flops on a tropical beach

What’s frustrating, though, is that more than 40 percent of Americans on average are leaving seven or more days of paid vacation on the table every year.  Seriously.  As many as ONE BILLION vacation days go unused every year!  We are not taking time out for ourselves and there are real health consequences to being vacation-starved and over-stressed.  These lead to a workforce that is less productive, less satisfied in their jobs and relationships, and more prone to stress-related illnesses like high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease.

What might be a prescription to treat this long list of ailments? Dr. Vinocur says, “Take regular vacations.”

Here are some of the benefits to planning (and enjoying) more time off this year:

  1.     Regular Vacations can prevent a heart attack.

It is well known that stress contributes to heart disease. Over time, chronic stress from the competing demands of your work, finances and home life takes its toll.  Stress can contribute to heart disease and high blood pressure, which can cause a heart attack!  In addition, depression is also linked to heart disease and stress, and neuroscientists have found that the brain structure is actually altered by chronic exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, which can be a major contributing factor to anxiety and depression.  According to the December 2013 Nielsen Research Study, over three-quarters of respondents reported feeling happier when they vacationed regularly.

  1.     Regular Vacations can make you smarter.

If you feel distracted and can’t concentrate because of everyday stresses, you are not alone.  Studies find that chronic stress can actually modulate a part of your brain that inhibits goal-directed activity and can cause problems with memory.  This affects work performance, which in turn creates more stress.  It’s a vicious cycle!  No wonder 71% of respondents in the same Nielsen Study were more satisfied at work when they regularly took a vacation.

  1.     Regular Vacations can improve your sex life.

The term “vacation sex” is a real phenomenon.  Many lose interest in sex or have performance issues when worried about work and financial pressures.  Chronic stress and higher cortisol levels are associated with lower sex hormone levels, such as testosterone, that contribute to loss of libido.  But 80% of respondents in the Nielsen Study who were on vacation, or regularly took time to vacation, reported increased romance in their relationship… which translates into better sex!

  1.     Regular Vacations can make you thinner.

For stress eaters, everyday stresses can make you fat, a fact which science supports, according to Dr. Vinocur.  Regular vacations can help!  Over 75% of respondents in the Nielsen Study reported positive feelings and extreme happiness while on vacation.  For stress eaters, this may break the overeating cycle.

  1.     Regular Vacations are a necessity.

The Nielsen Study found that planning and taking regular vacations helps 96% of Americans who “Stay Vacationed.™” enjoy and cherish the time spent with family.

Vacations don’t have to span a number of weeks, though Dr. Vinocur suggests a week or more when you can get it.  Even a two or three day escape can be enough to recharge and return to work with better attention, energy and productivity.  As for the kind of vacation you take?  Everyone is different and finds a personal refresh in their own way.  Of course, she’ll tell you that any experience at a Diamond Resort is worth looking into, but, personally, she’s happy anywhere she can (safely) enjoy some sun and warm weather.

This New Year, change your family’s dynamics and make time for better heath.  Make sure regular vacations are a top New Year’s resolution!

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Kate Michael

Kate Michael

Kate Michael is a Writer, Event Emcee, On-Camera Host and Fashion/Commercial Model. Follow on Twitter @kstreetkate

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