Science Of The Weekend

What reduces stress, promotes health and strengthens relationships? Weekend getaways! A simple trip can benefit your overall health and improve interpersonal relationships. As if you needed one more reason to love the weekend.

 
 
 
Just north of the Miami River in the heart of the Magic City, Patrick Kaimrajh sits in his high-rise office overlooking the skyscrapers and towering condo buildings of downtown. A senior engineer for engineering and consulting firm Chen Moore and Associates, Kaimrajh pounds the paperwork once again.
 
Just hours prior, however, Kaimraijh was strolling along Flagler Avenue in New Smyrna Beach, FL, with friends from all over the state, taste testing wines in the small beach town’s quirky art galleries and local restaurants. He had taken a four-hour road trip north up the coast for a weekend getaway to participate in New Smyrna Beach’s monthly Wine Walk.
 
“It was beneficial to disconnect from the stresses of the office and enjoy time away from home,” he says. “It was thoroughly relaxing. It helped my brain reset, though come the following Monday I was back in the thick of it.”
 
There’s a lot of science behind the magical feeling you get when on vacation, even short weekend trips. In our daily lives, stress manifests in myriad ways. We feel the physical ailments through headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, panic attacks and more as stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol, which accelerates the aging process, elevate.
 
But, explains Dr. Chad Rudnick in between patient appointments at his South Florida private practice Boca VIPediatrics, “When you go on vacation, you’re giving your mind and your body a break from the monotony of your daily work life and the stressors that come along with our daily lives.” 
 
While the logistics of organizing a trip might momentarily increase stress, the actual time spent vacationing has physical, psychological and sociological benefits. There’s science to prove it. For example, a 2012 survey conducted by the travel site Expedia revealed that 89% of people feel less stressed and more able to relax after being on vacation for just one to two days.
 
 
The following year, the U.S. Travel Association launched Project Time Off to demonstrate how travel can benefit individuals and communities. In terms of physical health, the U.S. Travel found in a study published in 2013 that one-third of leisure travelers reported having more sex on vacation. And everyone from Cosmopolitan to WebMD agrees doin’ the deed promotes healthy blood circulation, counts as exercise and, of course, eases stress.
 
Even the adventures that people seek on vacation tend to be more active. From wandering around new cities to partaking in new hobbies like snorkeling or hiking, the heightened activity proves physically and mentally stimulating. Even better, such forms of exercise can help lower blood pressure, the Mayo Clinic confirms.
 
Dr. Paul Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist and adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, told The Chicago Tribune that the mental benefits of traveling can help stave off diseases such as Alzheimer's. His comments echo Dr. Collette Fabrigoule’s groundbreaking 1995 study, which argued that partaking in leisure activities like traveling are associated with lower risks of dementia. 

 
Traveling can also help strengthen interpersonal relationships and broaden sociological understandings. In 2013, Disney, one of the nation’s top weekend getaway destinations, released the results of a survey that explored the meaning of family “quality time.” One of the most startling responses revealed that less than half of the time parents spend with their children at home is considered “quality time.” With each individual preoccupied with a daily regimen, meaningful social interactions often become the exception rather than the norm. 
 
When on vacation, however, families reported that 82% of time spent together was of a higher quality. This concept can be extended to include all kinds of social settings besides families. Committing to spending significant time with travel companions, or even meeting new people along the way, encourages communication and creative problem solving. 
 
Brandon Perlow, head of admissions for the People to People Ambassador Programs in the Midwest, often speaks with young students and their families about the value of traveling. When he’s not working, Perlow travels extensively for pleasure. And, he maintains, just getting away for a few days is a worthwhile investment in your health and sense of adventure.
 
 
“Traveling gives me mental clarity,” he says. “There is nothing like an eight-day hike, a fifteen-hour flight, or a six-hour drive to shut off your electronic devices, your social media accounts and have a break from work to truly clear your mind and give you some balance and perspective.”
 
And when you get back from traveling, productivity back in the real world tends to increase. The benefit may only be temporary, but that’s ok: your next weekend trip is always around the corner.
 

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