A vacation should calm your mind, refresh your body, and revive your relationships – and can even extend your life. According to several studies, the fewer vacations a person takes, the higher their risk of having a heart attack. To make a vacation work for you, you really need to get your mind off work. Psychologists call this “detachment” – and it’s what you want in a vacation. So, here’s how to detach courtesy of Rodale Publishing.

  • A vacation should use part of your brain that you don’t use at work. According to psychology professor Dr. Charlotte Fritz, that’s the path to detachment. The more different your vacation activities are from what you normally do, the easier it is to stop thinking about work. In fact, according to Dr. Fritz’s research, people who take on a challenge while on vacation feel less exhaustion back on the job and perform their job more efficiently. So, challenge yourself by learning a new language while you visit a foreign country – or take scuba diving lessons.
  • The next step to getting the most out of your vacation: Disconnect. Dr. Brooks Gump from State University of New York says a vacation needs to provide “a signaled safety opportunity.” What that means in plain English is that a vacation needs to be a period of time when you don’t have to worry about what might happen to you – will you get fired, are you in trouble with the boss, when’s the deadline for that report? Disconnect from those feelings, feel safe – so to speak – and your blood pressure and heart rate will go down. The professor says to achieve that, ideally, you’d wouldn’t check your voice mail, or email, or call in to work.
  • Another way to maximize your vacation: Sweat. Researchers at the Medical University of Vienna found that people who’d taken a three week hiking vacation were physically and psychologically healthier for a full eight weeks after their trip. When you’re being physical, your mind clears and you’re better able to “detach.”
  • On vacation, reconnect. Psychologists who study vacations say that reconnecting with friends and family is the best way to reap the full benefits of a getaway. Why? Because being with other people improves your mood, provides distraction, raises self-esteem – and here’s that word again – helps you detach.