Puerto Rican composer Manuel Lin Miranda has become famous for his musicals. Among them “Hamilton”, the biggest Broadway hit in recent years. But it’s less well known that Miranda found the inspiration for his work while he was on vacation, resting after three years of working tirelessly on his previous musical, “In the Heights.” Scientific studies confirm that taking vacations increases creativity and performance and, on the contrary, not taking them has very negative effects.
Why traveling improves your brain
The European Union has a relatively reasonable common labor law in which salaried workers enjoy at least 20 paid vacation days. In France there are 30. Despite the legislation in Europe, 28% of workers could not go on a trip last year because they could not afford it.
At the other extreme is the United States, where vacations are not guaranteed by law, and companies decide how many days of paid vacation they offer. Usually 10 days a year, which increases as they spend more time with the company. There is a right to take unpaid vacations, but most Americans don’t even take their paid days off. Until the year 2000, the average number of days off was 20 a year, but since then it has dropped to 16.
In Spain, the self-employed experience our particular version of the “American dream”. According to a study by Muno, a company belonging to BBVA that offers insurance for the self-employed, 7 out of 10 enjoy less than 15 days of vacation per year, and almost 40% take less than seven days. According to the same survey, 80% of Spanish freelancers work on weekends.
Not having vacations has negative effects on health, and more worryingly, on the brain. Precisely because it is an endemic disease in the United States, that is where most of the studies that warn us of these pernicious effects come from. A 2014 study found that a worker with a low salary, but who took vacations every year, had greater well-being and happiness than someone who earned four times as much but could not rest.
One of the best known, from the State University of New York, in which the most common causes of mortalityfound that men ages 35 to 57 who were at risk for heart disease and who did not take at least one week of vacation a year were 30% more likely to die from a cardiovascular event.
Holidays and the brain
But in addition to physical health, the negative effects of skipping vacations and working long hours concern, above all, mental health. A review of studies found that working more than 40 hours per week was associated with an increased risk of depression, which was multiplied by seven for those who worked 80 hours per week, for example, in Japan. Working without rest also increased the consumption of alcohol and tobacco, reduced physical activity and affected sleep. At the same time, work more than 55 hours per week reduced cognitive ability in middle-aged people.
A direct consequence of not taking vacations is that absenteeism from work increases. A team of researchers from Israel studied factory workers before and after taking a vacation. As expected, stress levels and burnout were reduced, but in addition, after the break, work absenteeism was also reduced.
When one person takes time off work because of burnout, the effect is that other workers also get burned out. In other 2014 study69% of workers said that other people’s unplanned absences added to their workload, 61% said they increased stress, and 48% said they hurt morale at work and led to decreased productivity up to 36.6%.
Taking vacations also produces more honest workers and managers. In a report from the Fraud Control Office in the US it is read that the amount lost due to fraud was reduced by 47.6% in cases where organizations ensured that workers take vacations and rotation of their jobs.
Holidays and Neuroplasticity
In a study with people who worked in a university German, the effect of vacations on their life satisfaction and performance was measured. After vacations, employees found that they did their jobs with less effort, even though they often found themselves with backlogs upon their return. This is an indicator that his mental capacity had recovered.
However, not all vacations are the same. In the same study, when vacation time was stressful due to inconveniences associated with travel or personal relationships, or due to stress caused by not being at work, there were no positive effects after return.
Taking vacations helps prevent burnout, but it also helps boost creativity. The mind needs to reset from time to time to perform at its best. Taking a break allows the brain to find new answers, ideas and knowledge. Psychologists call itincubation effect”, a phenomenon where temporarily moving away from an unsolved problem can lead to new solutions or ideas.
This has to do with the concept of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to establish new connections. neuroplasticity is activated by changes in our environment. It has been proven that just taking a different path or visiting an unfamiliar part of town increases neuroplasticity. With all the more reason, the time spent traveling, changing scenery, and facing new experiences that vacations bring are essential for the brain to become more flexible.
What is all this based on?