In a nutshell: Don’t feel guilty about taking a break! Vacation days can make you a more productive and healthy person.

If you’re like most Americans, you’re not using all your vacation days. Project: Time Off, a research project trying to shift the conversation about employees taking vacations, says Americans left 705 million vacation days on the table last year. (Project: Time Off, perhaps not coincidentally, is sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association.) In addition, less than 50 percent of workers used all their vacation time.

If you’re guilty of leaving behind vacation days, you might not be doing yourself any favors. Here’s why.

Vacations Help Your Career

Taking a vacation makes you seem less committed to work, right? Not so fast! Vacations can help you become a more valued and productive worker.

Project: Time Off’s research shows that people who refuse to take a vacation — so-called “work martyrs — are 23 to 27 percent less likely to receive a promotion, and 78 to 84 percent less likely to get a bonus — than those who take advantage of their vacation days.

A lot of great ideas happen when you’re not sitting at your desk. Lin-Manuel Miranda came up with the idea for Hamilton, one of Broadway’s most successful musicals, on vacation after picking up the book in an airport bookstore. “I don’t believe it’s an accident that my first vacation from In the Heights [his earlier musical], the best idea of my life shows up,” he tells Deliberate Rest, a blog by the author of “Rest: Why You Get More Done when You Work Less.”

“The moment my brain got a moment’s rest, Hamilton walked into it,” he says.

[Ready for a vacation? See our related article, Disconnecting from Work.]

Vacations Help Your Health

Experts agree that taking time away from the pressures of work is beneficial for mental and physical health. Some of the benefits are:

Vacations Help the Economy

No matter how far you travel — from a staycation in your hometown to a trip to the other side of the world — you’ll be supporting a major industry that employs millions of people. The World Travel & Tourism Council says that tourism directly supports 108.7 million jobs worldwide and directly contributes more than $2.4 trillion to the global economy. Add in the indirect impact, and those numbers jump to 292.2 million jobs and more than $7.6 billion.

This might not seem like an important reason to take a vacation, but it’s good to know that when you take a break from work, you’re supporting the livelihoods of other people, companies and communities.

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