By SUSAN CALLAHAN, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
We Americans are notoriously bad at taking vacations. We are not entirely at fault? A study from Expedia in 2016 found that Americans are offered an average of 15 pad vacation days per year and we take 12 of those days. In contrast, the French and the Spaniards are offered 30 days of vacation and take all 30 of them. Likewise, the British, Swiss and Swedes are offered 25 days of vacation and take all 25 of them. Are we missing something here? Do they know something that we don't know?
We in America take it as a point of pride that we do not take many vacation days. Employees, especially those at the professional level, who take more than a minimal number of vacation days are disparaged, and often fall down the pecking order when promotions are being considered. I know because I sat in those rooms where managers were discussing the relative values of employees. I was also one of those idiots who didn't take enough vacations, even when I was stressed out and really needed a break.
Like many Americans, I didn't take all of my vacation days because of fear, fear that I would be seen as lazy, as a slackard.
Studies on the health benefits of vacations have found that vacations improve our health by reducing the way we deal with stress. But how long does this afterglow of a vacation last?
Vacation Health Benefits Last About 3 to 4 Weeks
Scientists from the Tel Aviv University set out in 1997 to measure how long the health benefits of a vacation last. What they found is that people suffering from pre- holiday burnout tend to return to their burned out state between 3 and 4 weeks after a vacation.
Actually, the "fadeout" of those good vacation vibes began as early as a mere 3 days after the vacation ended.
Another study had a more hopeful view of a vacations benefits. That study, in 2000 from the University of Vienna, found that people experienced a positive lift on their mood and fewer physical complaints up to 5 weeks after a vacation.
Can We Do Something to Make Vacation AfterGlow Last Longer?
Yes, we can. It turns out that the way you plan your vacation significantly affects the degree of health benefits you will obtain from the vacation.
The scientists discovered that these are the factors that increase the health benefits and satisfaction you will experience after a vacation:
Basically, much of it boils down to good pre-vacation planning. If you want to truly benefit your health from a vacation, head to the sunnier, warmer climes and don't just lie on a beach.
Plan some walks, perhaps take in a tour with a group to make it easier to make new acquaintances. Keep a good sleep schedule by not staying p all night every night.
Above all, don't over-schedule your vacation. Leave plenty of time for yourself, to unwind, to do what you truly love to do and not just what teh kids or your mate wants to do.
Vacations are an investment in your health. They're expensive and, in America, rare. Don't waste them with poor planning.