Good news! Today is the best, yet least-known holiday of the year – it’s National Relaxation Day. Yes, that’s a thing. This sacred day is a time to remind us to slow down and take a little break from our fast paced, busy schedules.
Some people (not me) feel guilty about relaxing because it seems there’s always so much to do, but there are actually real health benefits of relaxation, such as:
- Heart protection. When you’re stressed, blood pressure tends to go up, which in turn leads to heart problems, including heart attacks.
- Lowering your risk of catching a cold. Sounds odd, but it’s been shown that stress lasting for more than a month doubles a person’s risk of catching a cold.
- Improved memory. It should be no surprise that when our mind isn’t running a mile a minute, we have time to process information and remember it. Studies have found that stress impairs the centers of the brain involved in memory and learning. Also, other studies have found that stress can increase certain proteins in the brain that have been liked to Alzheimer’s, which could possibly accelerate the development of the disease.
- Protection against depression. The extended presence of the stress hormone cortisol can reduce our levels of serotonin and dopamine, both of which are linked to depression.
Yikes! This makes you want to stop what you’re doing and start relaxing now, right? Well, unfortunately, we don’t get the day off from work for Relaxation Day, but there are some great ways to celebrate when you get home from work today, and really any day, including:
- Read a book. I do this every day on my commute home from work and I find it really relaxing because it transports me to another world where my problems don’t exist.
- Take a spa trip. It’s hard sometimes to find the time to enjoy a massage and/or facial, but once you’ve done it, you leave the spa feeling relaxed and refreshed. Definitely worth scheduling a visit every few weeks, if you can.
- Spend time in the great outdoors. There’s something about being outside in the fresh air that makes most people feel really relaxed. When the weather is nice, try taking a walk around the block, in the park or on the beach, and let the good feelings wash over you.
- Or stay in. One of my favorite relaxation techniques is sitting in front of the TV and catching up on some mindless TV watching. Just like reading a book, it can transport you to another world where you can forget about your problems and instead focus on the fictional problems of others.
- Catch up with friends. I feel most relaxed on the weekends when I don’t have much that I need to accomplish, and can enjoy spending a few hours catching up with friends over brunch. Being social helps you connect with others, and actually has health benefits too!
- Focus on your breathing. Sounds silly, I know, but deep abdominal breathing can help you disengage from distracting thoughts, and it can also help slow your heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure. For some tips on how, when and where to practice deep breathing, check out this article.
Pressed for time, but still want to reap the benefits of feeling relaxed? WebMD offers some great relaxation techniques that can be done in less than 15 minutes! Check it out here.
What are some of your favorite ways to relax?