Holidays and the Brain and Body Benefits

By Sarah Godfrey MAPS. AHPRA. PBA. CCOUN

Psychologist – Coach – Author – Speaker


It is common knowledge that taking a break is good for us, although in the current climate it seems finding weeks to put aside for rest and relaxation has become more and more difficult. It’s time we paid attention to the increased benefits of, not only taking a holiday, but investing in frequent sabbaticals. These benefits extend across your psychological, physical wellbeing and your brain function.

Time-lining sabbaticals into our lives has substantial positive effects on our executive function, creativity and overall career performance.

What we already realise is that extended periods of time off do us the world of good. For starters sabbaticals;

  • Improve your immune system to fight illnesses (like viruses, colds etc)
  • Enhance your emotional well-being
  • Build self-esteem and confidence by positive risk taking, new experiences and increased socialisation
  • Decrease your stress (allowing cortisol levels to stabilise)
  • Re-energise motivation by breaking routines and feelings of apathy in daily life

More recent research is showing us exciting and significant effects on how sabbaticals can improve our brain and body functioning. The Icahn School of Medicine, University of California and Harvard, conducted a study that showed a six day retreat was capable of causing genetic changes. These genetic changes improved the immune system, decreased stress levels and even lowered the levels of proteins in the brain associated with depression and dementia. Not only that, but the study indicated that these genetic effects were still present one month later.

We can only imagine the long-term benefits from frequent sabbaticals aimed at self-improvement or skill enhancement. (As yet there is no research cross comparing a healthy sabbatical with a cruise ship ‘24-hour-drink-fest-party,’ however I’m sure there will be plenty of volunteers for the later).  So, sabbaticals can improve our physical immune system and may help the physical signs of depression and dementia. The benefits lasting much longer than the holiday itself. It doesn’t stop there. Here is another fascinating thing about a well-earned extended break. It can also;

  • Boost your creativity
  • Increase your emotional intelligence and resilience
  • Increase your executive functioning capabilities

There is growing evidence on how sabbaticals can enhance executive functioning, (the area of the brain associated with planning, thinking, organising and problem solving), and allow the creative mind in us all, to be released. And a creative mind is what you need moving into the future.

Judy Willis M.D.M.Ed in The Impact Of Creativity On The Brain, outlines the importance of creativity to enhance brain function. Willis believes that constructs such as ‘long term memory, concept construction, intelligence; academic, social, and emotional success; the development of skill sets and the highest information processing (executive functions) that will become increasingly valuable for students of the 21st century,’ are by-products of creativity. And creativity is a by-product of taking a sabbatical. Time we all valued a break as a moment to spark our own dormant or unknown creativity.

Sarah is a lateral mentalist providing coaching psychology for two decades focusing on personal development. She works with her clients to build successful futures, speaks at conferences and writes books and blogs on discovering how to improve your life, find happiness and master human skills.

You can contact Sarah by emailing her at