Why Taking Time Off Is Good for You

Woman sitting in hammock readingTo outsiders, Americans seem chronically vacation-deprived. Workers in the United States get less time off than workers in other developed nations, and the U.S. is the only developed nation that does not legally mandate vacation days or sick leave. Many employees take matters into their own hands and call in sick when they’re not, often referred to as a “mental health day.” And while some employees might feel guilty about deceiving their bosses, there’s ample evidence that vacation time is good for your health and a periodic break can help you recharge and refocus.

Family Time
It’s not just the time spent at the office that takes away from family time. Long commutes, the exhaustion of a stressful day, and working from home all make it challenging to get family time during the work week. People who spend more time with their families generally are happier and feel closer, and when a job interferes with this time, it can upset the family dynamic and lead to relationship problems. Even a single mental health day can give you time to reconnect with your family, and a week-long vacation can rekindle closeness between spouses, parents, and children, as well as with extended family members.

Personal Time
The competing demands of work and family can leave people with limited time to pursue hobbies, spend time alone, and relax. A day off from work while most other people are working provides an opportunity for duty-free personal time. This can give you an opportunity to discover new hobbies, work on a much-anticipated project, or simply enjoy a temporary respite from stress and constant obligation. A brief mental health day can give you time to meditate, walk the dog, start a new exercise routine, or cook a nutritious meal.

A Break from Stress
Stress doesn’t just feel bad. It can make you sick. People with high levels of stress report more aches and pains, more mental health issues, and more minor infections than people who have relatively low stress levels. A break from the stress of work—and the added stress of balancing work with the rest of your life—can give your body a chance to recover from the effect of chronic stress, and can give you an opportunity to discover new coping skills. People who have leisure time have lower blood pressure and are less likely to become overweight. People report feeling physically healthier during their vacations and are more satisfied with their lives during breaks from work. Indeed, a growing body of evidence suggests that between health problems, mental health days, and productivity/creativity lulls resulting from stress, it may be more costly for employers not to provide ample time off.

Better Mental Health
People who take regular vacations and mental health days report being happier than people who have no time off or very limited time off. Even a single mental health day can increase motivation because it provides people with the opportunity to gain new perspectives on work projects. The leisure time that a day off or a week-long vacation opens up has a powerful impact. People who have leisure time report having stronger networks of friends and family, feel more connected to the people in their lives, and are more spiritual than people with little time off.


  1. Johanson, M. (2012, August 28). These countries get the most vacation days. International Business Times. Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.com/these-countries-get-most-vacation-days-hint-america-isnt-list-758021
  2. The benefits of taking time off. (2011, August 17). US News. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2011/08/17/the-benefits-of-taking-time-off
  3. Wilson, B. (n.d.). Relax! Vacations are good for your health. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111887591

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  • Leave a Comment
  • juliette r

    May 21st, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    somewhere along the way Americans have been led to believe that taking a vacation is a bad thing! i can even remember growing up and my dad never going on vacation with all of us as a family, or if he did he might come for the weekend but then head back home after a few days to avoid taking too much time off of work.
    and it wasn’t like he had a job that he would have lost, I mean he was in management but there was still just this mindset that if you were going to get ahead and stay ahead that taking time off even for family time just was not an option.

  • Helene

    May 22nd, 2013 at 4:02 AM

    I have always used my vaction time as a time of renewal and a chance to reconnect with family.
    This is the most worthwhile thing for me to do with my time. I never would have wanted to feel like I have missed out on something really special with my children just to try to get ahead or look good at work. This isn’t the way I was hardwired.
    The Europeans take far more time off than we do and they are consistently ranked as being far happier in their jobs and in their personal lives. I would love it if everyone would take a little something away from that and come to see that vacations are not about just goofing off, that they serve an integral part in our lives that we can all benefit from.

  • Quanti

    May 22nd, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    I didn’t never understand my daddy’s philosophy on this. He say it better not to take time off otherwise people will think you ain’t important enough to have to be there every day.


    May 22nd, 2013 at 10:39 AM


  • april

    May 22nd, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    i remember when i first started to work i worked for this witch of a lady i had to take some days off b/c it was so much stress to work for her i couldn’t wait to get out of that school i worked at that was almost 20 years ago and i haven’t looked back so glad to be gone from there

  • Daisy

    May 22nd, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    Europe definitely has this one right. Totally crazy to not have more vacation days than we do.

  • Jacquey

    May 22nd, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    As for family time, I need my commute in order to be sweet when I get home and productive when I get to work.

    In the morning, I use the commute time to relax and transition away from being mom and into being a worker. I need that 20 minutes to take off one hat and put on the other.

    In the afternoon, I need the commute to decompress from the work day and mentally prepare myself to deal with my family. I know that sounds bad, but if I don’t have that decompression time, I can’t give them my best when I get home.

  • P Erickson

    May 22nd, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    When we were little. My dad worked ALL THE TIME.
    He never took a break. Not even for Christmas. He’d go in. And then he’d stay all day.
    I asked him one time why. Why he went to work so much.
    he said it was b/c he felt responsible for our family. And wanted to give us the best life possible.
    All I wanted was my dad. To be at home with us. And spend time with us.
    I’d have give back all that stuff. Just to have some afternoons fishing. With my dad.

  • Penelope

    May 22nd, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Spend time alone!!!!!!!!! YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • frankie

    May 22nd, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    My absolute favorite thing to do on vacation is to stay in my pajamas all day, sit on the couch with my pillow and blanket, and alternate between watching TV and looking at FAcebook. Did I mention I’ve been on vacation since September? LOL!

  • langston

    May 22nd, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    Oh my goodness, I have no idea what I’d do if I didn’t have time off, I am always figuring out how many days til my next vacation, i think I’d be so depressed it it was like more than six weeks away, I am so glad i work in a place that lets you take vacation, i am so sorry for other people who don’t have that, i didn’t realize it was such a luxury.

  • Jessica

    May 22nd, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    U R 100% right about stress making u sick.

    I have never been so sick as when I worked at my last job.

    Seems like every time I turned around I was getting a cold.

    U know how mad they got at me!

    But then when I went to my next job, I was never sick.

    And, I am sure u can figure out what the difference was.

    So much less stress at my second job.

    And, guess what? U R right, now I’m never sick.

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