Five months ago, I was on a plane home from a MUCH needed four-day boost in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain.

I’m positive that seasonal depression is real, especially after living in Germany for a year!!

The weather forecast? Rain, clouds, and 3 hours of legit sun with overcast gloom. I’ve started referring to rainy weather as “Germany” weather. Last year, I even bought a light box for some fake rays… really.

Hello, Fuerteventura!

It was time to refill our Vitamin D tanks, so my husband, Kyle, and I found a deal for Fuerteventura, off the coast of Morroco. Its consistent sun, 70+ degrees, beach and sparkling ocean called to us, and we answered!!

Hopping a direct 4.5 hour flight from Germany, we found a 5-star Sheraton hotel deal and jet set to four days of bliss. Side note: shout-out to Sheraton for upgrading us to a junior suite, complete with a walk-in closet, huge jacuzzi that fit my 7′ husband and my 6′ self (who knew, right!?), king size bed, patio, ocean view, etc.

HECK yeah.

On our first morning, Kyle decided that he wanted to rent a fishing pole to go ocean fishing, so we walked along the island coast to find a supply shop. Along the way, there was a cute coffee shop overlooking the ocean, so we stopped to get a drink and take in the view.

We came across our first encounter with British people (they were everywhere!) at a table next us, who had the sweetest accents, of course, and told us they were vacationing for TWO WEEKS. Last year, they came for three weeks. No big deal.

And here we were, excited to have a FOUR day break!?

Newsflash

A 2011 study done by Expedia.com showed the United States is among the lowest (besides Japan and South Korea) for both vacation days earned and taken across the world.

Americans averaged 14 vacation days earned, but used an average of 12 vacation days.

Germany, France, Spain, Denmark and Brazil tied for 30 vacation days earned, and all averaged close to 30 vacation days taken

15% of Americans said they didn’t take all earned days off because “Work is my life.” And 14% said they will take FEWER vacation days next year.

Seriously? What’s up with that?! Should we be taking more vacation days, or are Europeans just lazy!?

The Evidence

According to a study with 1,399 participants done by the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind-Body Center, people who had reported more leisure activities had:

“…More life satisfaction… more meaning in life… They tended to be more religious [and] spiritual in orientation. They reported having a lot of support from friends and having a large network of friends and family.”

The benefits found from engaging in multiple leisure activities include:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower stress hormones
  • Smaller waists

Hmmm… I’m seeing a trend here.

The Stress – Obesity Correlation

Maybe there is a correlation with Americans having the highest prevalence of obesity and one of the lowest amount of used vacation days?

With less emotional, physical and mental breaks, chronic stress can better run its ugly course promoting more inflammation, and leading to a higher prevalence of disease and obesity… and a lower quality of life.

And we all don’t want that to happen.

So, do we need to take two week vacations every time in order to reap the health benefits? Or is a four day break sufficient?

Kyle and I are the first to admit that although we would much prefer two weeks of vacation, our four day stint left us super fulfilled!!

We soaked up enough sun equivalent to THREE MONTHS in Germany. While I read nearby, he fished. We hit the spa one afternoon, cooked our own dinner several nights, took long walks on the beach, worked out, went bowling, soaked in our hotel room jacuzzi, and, you know… relaxed. 🙂

We even turned off our cell phones and barely used a computer (SHOCKING, I know!).

Positive Effects of Short Vacays

Another study proves the positive effects of short 4-5 vacations as well. Measuring eighty workers’ health and well-being (H&W) before, during and post-vacation, the results showed a 62% improvement.

Though the effect faded out rather quickly,

“…the more relaxed and psychologically detached they felt, the more time they spent on conversations with [their] partner, the more pleasure they derived from their vacation activities… Experiences of relaxation and detachment from work positively influenced H&W even after returning home.”

So, there it is. Do your part to overturn this over-rated, American corporatitis “live to work” mentality.

Ask yourself, “If I got fired tomorrow, would I be upset for not taking more time off?”

I guarantee it is a resounding YES.

Do Yourself and Your Health a Favor

Take a vacation…!!!

And if money is the reason you’re abstaining?

Take a staycation!

Sleep in, take a day trip to a nearby city, make fancy dinner reservations, indulge in pampering, be a local tourist, get out in nature, stay at a local hotel, go to a concert or sporting event, or… do nothing but relax!

Let’s take a cue from the Europeans and “work to LIVE,” and reap the benefits of increased health and well-being.

That’s the goal, right?