Think fast: How many vacation days do you have left this year? If you don’t know the answer, go investigate — and then start planning how you’ll use them, pronto.
In a recent ad campaign by MasterCard, a group of children lectures us that 400 million PTO days go unused every year. One young boy comments: “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard.” Well said, kid.
And it’s true: According to a survey by Glassdoor, only half of Americans use all their vacation days. To motivate you to book your next trip, here are seven ways taking time off can benefit your health, career and sex life.
Why Taking PTO Is Always Worth It
1. You’ll be less likely to get sick.
“Working too many weeks in a row can be very detrimental to your health,” says Jeff Marksberry, MD, who works with the American Institute of Stress. Employees who fail to take needed breaks are prone to increases in the stress hormone cortisol, which research shows can weaken your immune system and possibly lead to heart problems down the road. “Taking a vacation lets your body and mind recover from the constant bombardment of stress, allowing your immune system to ‘reboot’ so you’re less likely to get sick,” Marksberry says
If your vacation is relaxing enough, you’ll continue to feel blissed out for up to eight weeks afterwards
2. You’ll get happier just planning your trip.
If you’ve spent time perusing the travel boards on Pinterest, you know that even the anticipation of planning a trip can put you in a sunnier frame of mind. A study in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life found that people who are about to go on a vacation feel happier in the weeks leading up to their trip, compared to folks with no travel plans on the horizon. Plus, according to the research, if your vacation is relaxing enough, you’ll continue to feel blissed out for up to eight weeks afterwards.
RELATED: 17 Ways to Get Back to Being Happy
3. Even a long weekend might improve the economy.
If you’re not using your vacation days because you’re on a budget, spend your time off taking long weekends — it’ll do everyone some good. The U.S. Travel Association reports that encouraging workers to use one more day of paid leave each year could bring $73 billion more to our economy annually (because, let’s face it, we all spend more when we travel more).
4. You might ward off depression.
In a study of 887 super stressed lawyers, published in the journal Human Relations, researchers found that those who took vacations, and were active and social, experienced reduced levels of depression compared to those who spent leisure time watching TV or listening to music. “Quality time should include things like being outdoors, spending time with friends and family, exercise, and some ‘me’ time,” says Dr. Marksberry. That means spending precious hours away from your cellphone, too.
5. Travel can make you more self-aware.
Just thinking about traveling to new places may boost your creativity, according to a study from the American Psychological Assocation. Mentally picturing yourself in a foreign place and contemplating having new experiences can give you an improved sense of self-awareness, too.
“Not using these days is like giving your employer a discount on your paycheck.”
6. You’ll be earning more money per day worked.
“Not using these days is like giving your employer a discount on your paycheck,” says Gary Oster, executive VP of member services at the U.S. Travel Association. Too stressed at work to contemplate leaving it all behind? “If you set yourself up properly before vacation, you should be OK when you get back,” he says. Communicate with your managers and team about what needs to be done before you take off, and set a time to get briefed on the most pressing items when you return, he suggests.
7. You’ll fire up your love life.
Hello, vacation sex! A U.S. Travel Association survey found that couples that travel together are more likely to have a better sex life, enjoy more romance, and be more satisfied in their relationships. “Going away on vacation can benefit your relationship with your partner by taking you out of your everyday routine and opening yourselves up to new experiences,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. . “It may even give you an opportunity to capture some of those feelings of your early time together as a couple.”
Originally posted on December 4, 2014. Updated May 2015.