Summer is officially upon us, which means that many are either planning a holiday or are already off on vacation. Taking days off is a proven way of effectively shaking us out of our familiar routines. It’s not just time away from work—it has multiple psychological benefits. Sometimes, getting away from it all is just what the doctor ordered. Here are just a few positives of “vacating” from your life, even if only for a few days.

1. Enhances creativity

Exposure to new environments can stimulate creativity and “out of the box” thinking. Over time, our brains can become stuck in certain ways of thinking. These cognitive ruts can keep us from looking at the bigger picture or from seeing things from different perspectives.

Holidays knock these ruts loose as we need to be flexible outside our comfort zones and adapt to unfamiliar surroundings. This creative adaptability (also known as neuroplasticity) is a useful skill for our brains and can encourage us to think in different, more diverse ways even after the holiday has ended. Bringing this creativity back home to our work and personal lives allows it to multiply and become more fully integrated into our personality.

2. Increases life satisfaction

For many people, visiting certain destinations and experiencing diverse cultures is a huge source of life satisfaction. Having a “bucket list” of places and being able to tick them off provides a source of personal accomplishment.

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3. Allows for social bonding

Having travel companions provides opportunities for people to get to know one another on a deeper and more personal level. It also allows for bonding over collaboratively shared memories and experiences. Even when travelling solo, people met along the journey with whom we may share conversations or meals with all enhance one’s social satisfaction and social networking skills

4. Reduces stress

Let’s face it: sometimes life is hard and we all just need a little break. Holidays do not always have to be about exploring new cultures or visiting every possible (crowded!) local tourist site. Alternatively, vacations can be a great opportunity to simply unwind and relax; to just hit the “pause” button on life.

Spend time on a beach while catching up on some long-neglected reading, go to a retreat where your only obligations are massage appointments, or just plan a foodie vacation and eat your way to bliss. Relaxing activities of your choice leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated before returning back to the daily grind. 

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So, the next time anyone questions you or gives you grief over your holiday or vacation plans, just remember the multiple benefits to be gained from these experiences. Pack that suitcase, chalk it up to self-care and make a clear intention to enjoy your time off the grid.

Dr. Michael Eason is a psychologist and US licensed therapist practicing at MindnLife in Central, Hong Kong. 

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