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Why You Absolutely Can’t Work This Labor Day Weekend

A study reveals that vacation is essential to good health—thanks, science!

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According to a study published in Springer Nature's journal Translational Psychiatry on Wednesday, vacations and meditation are quantifiably good for you. That’s good news for those who might be feeling guilty about leaving their laptops and work-related worries behind this Labor Day weekend.

Scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, UC San Francisco, and Harvard Medical School recruited 94 women between the ages of 30 and 60 who were reportedly in good health for the study. Scientists sent the women—some regular meditators and some not—on two different retreats to determine how meditating impacted “gene expression patterns” versus going on a straightforward vacation. Researchers analyzed 20,000 genes before and after the trips to determine the difference between what scientists dub the “meditation effect” and the “vacation effect.”

As it turns out, both have significant, positive impacts on your health and well-being. In a press release, Mount Sinai Hospital stated that the study’s scientists discovered “a resort vacation provides a strong and immediate impact on molecular networks associated with stress and immune pathways, in addition to short-term improvements in well-being, as measured by feelings of vitality and distress.” The meditation retreat showed signs of antiviral activity in the participants as well, indicating mindful relaxation can have health benefits beyond the psychological.

UCSF Professor of Psychiatry and lead author of the study, Elissa S. Epel, PhD, said of her team’s findings:

“It's intuitive that taking a vacation reduces biological processes related to stress, but it was still impressive to see the large changes in gene expression from being away from the busy pace of life, in a relaxing environment, in such a short period of time.”

While the study was small and Epel admits they need to replicate their findings to bolster legitimacy, it does give some scientific credence to that refreshed, youthful feeling we get upon returning from a restful vacation. According to the study, participants showed health and immune system improvements up to one month after the retreat’s conclusion. In other words, let loose this weekend—if you care about your health, that is.

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