Why taking a vacation is beneficial to you even before you take a break

Rest improves cognitive adaptability.

The direct advantages of holidays on our brains are not well explored in scientific literature, despite the fact that this may seem implausible. Their necessity does appear to be without question. A 2016 survey with 46 employees from a Dutch corporation came to this conclusion.

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In a test, the workers were given an object (a hammer, for example) and instructed to come up with as many applications (as a construction tool, weapon, paperweight, etc.) as they could in the least amount of time. The workers’ cognitive flexibility increased after two or three weeks of vacation, according to the researchers’ observations. Stated differently, they were able to come up with more uses for the things than what had been discovered a few weeks before to their holiday.

The majority of research agree that stress reduction is a primary biological factor contributing to this improvement in cognitive flexibility as well as the overall advantages of vacations.

We can all agree that stress is a result of employment. Here’s where we need to be clear, though: stress need not always be negative. When it occurs seldom, it is typically even advantageous as it triggers processes that assist us in completing the day-to-day tasks associated with our employment, including meeting deadlines (the writers of this piece are now addressing that).

Chronic stress is the “other stress”—the one that is associated with bad outcomes for all people. It happens when things are extended over time, either because we are always under pressure or because we are in unmanageable situations. It causes weariness, increased worry, irritation, and rage. Indeed, it’s undoubtedly horrible.

Recipe for a trip that helps you feel refreshed and renewed

The primary benefit of a well-planned vacation is its ability to lower levels of ongoing stress. Our brain can counteract the detrimental effects of stress, at least momentarily, while we are not doing anything. Here’s the thing: in order for vacations to be genuinely beneficial, we need to make sure they actually relieve us of the pressures of work. That is, we have to refrain from carrying out unfinished business, responding to emails, and so forth.

However, we must make sure that our holidays do not put us in any more difficult situations.

It’s also important to relish the waiting. Why is it that we feel delighted just thinking about our upcoming vacations? A few paragraphs ago, we discussed dopamine, which is created in the neurons of two brain areas called the ventral tegmental area (found in the center of our brain, essentially behind the ears) and the substantia nigra (so named because of its dark hue under a microscope).

Axons from these regions, which in humans include between 400,000 and 600,000 neurons, go to various parts of the brain. They contribute significantly to the pleasurable emotions evoked by novel encounters and rewards by releasing dopamine. As a result, as we anticipate our vacation, our brains’ dopamine levels rise and we experience pleasure.

In a similar vein, our favorite vacations are ones that allow us to indulge in both new experiences (like traveling to new locations) and rewards (like that seafood platter we had been eyeing all year). Naturally, one’s definition of rewarding is wholly subjective, and what makes one person happy may make another feel stressed.

Whether to have fun or not

Persistent stress also affects this pleasure-generating mechanism. Research indicates that prolonged or intense stress, like the kind we experience every day at work, might alter how dopamine is metabolized and/or cause a decrease in the quantity of dopamine produced.

The most concerning aspect is that the alterations don’t just happen in the ventral tegmental region or the substantia nigra. Chronic stress has also been shown to alter the quantity of dopamine receptors in the regions where these projections are received. Depressive behaviors frequently arise from this. Thus, a stress-free vacation will aid in the dopaminergic system’s rebalancing.

The benefits of longer holidays vs shorter ones are still up for debate, however taking longer vacations seems to have benefits.

Nevertheless, enjoyable trips are beneficial to us. Thus, in order to reset their dopaminergic system, we advise our readers to engage in enjoyable, stress-relieving, and energy-repair activities. Happy travels!