Everyone knows how to work and stress out, but do you know how to relax?
There are far more books on productivity, work, and career than there are on chilling out. Which is unfortunate, because while work is a part of life, there needs to be equal time for de-stressing and relaxation. Your mind can’t always be on the go. It needs regular time to unwind, regroup, and process everything that’s going on. You need to be taken out of your constant scanning of the past and future and made aware of the present moment.
We’ve put together a list of relaxing activities that you can do on a weekly or even daily basis to make sure that your mind is being taken care of. Most of these can be done from the comfort of your living room and for free. Read on to learn about the best relaxing activities for your mental health.
Whether it’s swimming, jump rope, lifting weights, dancing, or walking, everyone needs to exercise on a regular basis. Consistent exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. It helps keep your weight in check, your blood pressure low, and your muscles and bones strong.
There are two categories of exercise: cardiovascular and resistance. The recommendation for exercise is 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise five days a week or more, plus two days of resistance exercises.
What is moderate cardiovascular exercise? This level of exercise is achieved when your heart rate is increased to at least 65 percent of your maximum heart rate, which equals your age subtracted from 220. For example, if you are 45, your maximum heart rate would be 175, and you should be exercising enough to increase your heart rate to 114 beats per minute.
If you don’t want to track your heart rate, just make sure that whatever you’re doing is causing you to breathe a bit heavier and break a sweat. You should be able to exchange a few words, but not sustain a full conversation. A quick walk around the block is often enough to achieve this.
Resistance exercise can look like lifting weights at the gym. Things like squats, deadlifts, and bench exercises are excellent resistance exercises. If using a barbell isn’t your thing, try bodyweight resistance exercises like pushups, dips, and chin-ups. Many of these can be done at home with no extra equipment.
Exercise has a positive effect on your mental health. Immediately after exercise, your mind feels less anxious, depressed, and angry. The increased blood flow to the brain fuels your rational thinking ability, helping you reason through your issues and rationally assess difficult situations. Exercising regularly is an effective way to treat the symptoms of depression.
Meditation is good for most everything that ails you. Are you having trouble sleeping? Try these guided meditations. Can’t focus? Do a body scan meditation to reign in your monkey mind. Unruly child? Calm their behavior down with some meditation for kids.
Meditating a little bit every day is a great way to reduce anxiety, negative emotions, and hopelessness. It’s a relaxing activity which is easy, free, and can be done nearly anywhere, anytime. Check out our posts on meditation here:
Practicing Mindfulness with Thich Nhat Hanh Meditations: This article goes through several guided meditations that the famous mindfulness expert Thich Nhat Hanh has created.
6 Free Deepak Chopra Meditations: A list of six guided meditations from Deepak Chopra, modern-day mindfulness guru and meditation advocate.
Try These 7 Five-Minute Meditations For Inner Peace: Short on time? No problem! These short yet effective meditations will help calm your mind and body in no time.
Record Your Feelings In a Journal
Journaling can be extremely relaxing. Your journal is a place where you can let your guard down, expose your deepest secrets, and confess your struggles and fears without judgment or punishment. It feels great to get thoughts and emotions out of your crowded head and onto a blank piece of paper. Journaling can help you gain control of your emotions, clear your thoughts, and improve your mental health.
If you don’t know where to start, we suggest you begin keeping a gratitude journal a few times a week. Research shows that writing about aspects of your life that you are grateful for can increase your happiness.
Next time you’re feeling stressed, write down a list of three things you’re grateful for and why. Doing this quick activity is often enough to put your other troubles into perspective and help you relax.
Spend Time In Nature
City and suburban life can be fun, but many aspects of it are stressful. Without access to fresh air, greenery, and natural shade, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with concrete and the busyness of family and work life. This can dampen your happiness levels. Spending time in a park or woods is a great way to leave it all behind and relax.
Nature can have a hugely positive effect on your well-being. Having access to green space lowers stress and reduces depression and anxiety. People who move to urban areas with more green space experience improvements in their mental health. A study looking at walking in nature as a treatment for major depressive disorder found that healthy adults gained significant cognitive improvements after nature walks.
Next time you’re looking for a relaxing activity, consider visiting a natural environment. You can drive out into the countryside and climb a mountain, but something as simple as a walk through an urban park, greenhouse, or garden can be beneficial.
Get a Massage
Massages are a great option for a relaxing activity because they help relieve one of the main symptoms of stress: muscle tension.
Diminishing muscle tension feels nice and has been empirically demonstrated to reduce anxiety. A 1997 study looked at the effectiveness of 15-minute on-site massage for reducing worker stress. It found that after this short massage, all of the employees’ blood pressures were significantly lowered.
Massage therapy has been found to increase relaxation, improve the sense of well-being, and improve mood when administered to hospital patients. These patients also reported that the massage therapy had improved their mobility, energy levels, and recovery time.
The best option is to go to a massage therapist to get treatment. However, if this is not possible, there are a few DIY options available. For example, you could administer a self-massage to your shoulders, neck, face, scalp, arms, and legs. To make it even better, grab some massage oil and some essential oils to make the process smell nice, too.
You can also try progressive muscle relaxation, whereby you tighten and relax each muscle group in your body. This has similar effects in terms of releasing muscle tension.
Do a Breathing Exercise
Breathing exercises are a relaxing activity you can do anytime you feel anxious or stressed. There are a great many breathing exercises to choose from. Here are our favorites from the blog:
Diaphragmatic Breathing: In this exercise, you practice deepening your breath by breathing from your belly instead of your chest. This helps get more oxygen into your body and is extremely relaxing.
4-7-8 Breathing Technique: You breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven, and breathe out for eight. This technique is an evidence-based way to reduce stress and calm down immediately.
Deep Breathing: These are an assortment of breathing tactics that help deepen your breath. Shallow breathing is a symptom and aggravator of stress. By deepening your breath, you can help treat stress and relax.
Need Help Noticing Stress?
Our suggestion is to do these breathing exercises throughout the day, anytime you are feeling tension and stress.
Spire tracks your breathing rate and sends notifications to your phone every time your body is going into a state of stress. This lets you know that it’s time to calm down and pause to do some breathing exercises. In this way, you’re always keeping your stress in check and enhancing your overall levels of relaxation.
Play a Game
When you are trying to relax, it’s best that you stay away from electronics, which make it easy for you to get distracted and pulled into a stressful activity. Next time you want to relax and get your mind off things, consider doing a short mind game.
Examples include crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and card games. These games help protect cognitive function as you age, lower stress levels, and improve mood. Next time you want to relax, grab a cup of hot herbal tea and your paper’s daily crossword puzzles. It’s a fun and beneficial way to get your mind off things and pass some pleasant moments.
All of the activities on this list will help you feel acutely relaxed and overcome tough times at work and at home. When you do these relaxing activities regularly, at least on a weekly basis, you’ll see the most benefit. It’s a good idea to view these relaxing activities as part of a broader healthy lifestyle effort instead of one-off efforts to relieve stress.