There is a time for everything under the sun, and this includes leisure! This means that we need to take time out every day for rest, relaxation, and freedom from worry.
Remember when you were younger and you were given a “time-out” as a consequence for poor behavior? Basically, you were being removed from a situation that was overstimulating you and causing you to be out of control with your emotions. Similarly, in our adult-stress-filled daily environment, we need to take a “time-out” or time away from our over stimulating work environment and allow our mind to just wander and re-establish our emotional equilibrium.
Funny thing is that trying to find time in our day to do this can be stressful in and of itself… So what’s the answer?
First, let’s talk about why we should be leisurely. Having some down time is good for us in many ways:
- It reduces stress
- It allows us to think clearly and critically more quickly
- It reduces negative thinking and the risk of being depressed.
- It reduces the risk of dementia later in life
- It makes us feel good, gives us a positive outlook
- It allows us to take on life’s challenges more easily
This is because free time to relax lets us take our focus off of the pressures of the daily grind of schedules, work deadlines, family obligations, and financial concerns. It’s like an open window in a stuffy room, it clears the area. Time away from societal pressures is to the brain what food is to the body. It revitalizes, refreshes, and rejuvenates. It restores our mental balance.
What can you do during down time? Do anything that does not increase your level of stress. Involving nature or the outdoors during your free time is a definite mood booster, and research shows it will decrease your stress level immediately. A ten-minute walk will do wonders for your mental state, your ability to think more clearly, and your overall sense of well-being. You don’t have to walk in the park or a remote area. Cruising the crowded streets of a downtown urban area will have the same results as taking a stroll by the beach or lake. Your brain will take in all the sights. It will immediately start categorizing what you are seeing, taking your thoughts away from the daily grind to the pleasure of being outside in the fresh air.
What do you do if you are not into the outdoors? Not to worry. Stay along that track of self-awareness and ask yourself what are some activities that you like to do. Here are some of my favorites:
Take one day each week to explore a different place in your town, a shopping center, a museum, a restaurant, a local coffee shop, the library. Carve out 30 minutes or so to just be there and try doing something different at that location. Write down your adventure or share it with a friend.
Or you can take a class at a local community center, school, or college, like dancing, cooking, painting, singing, playing an instrument, etc.
Another interesting one that most people do not view as leisure is volunteering. But, if you pick the right activity in which to provide your assistance, expertise, advice, or help, it will have the same result of reducing your stress since you will be making a difference in another’s life. Volunteering is one of the best things we can do for others but it is also good for ourselves. It adjusts our perspective about our own circumstances and our world, but more importantly, it gives us a sense of accomplishment like no other activity we can do.
Add some down time by eliminating some of the business from your life. Determine what parts of your day can be compressed or completely deleted so that you can begin to declutter and make room for pursuing more enjoyable activities. And, as with all things, take time to self-reflect every day. Some call this meditation. I call it self-reflection, a conversation with self.
It’s a time to ponder if the decisions made are good for you and those around you, if you are comfortable with yourself, if there are areas of your psyche that need attention/healing, if you are taking things too seriously or if you are allowing yourself some grace when mistakes are made. This piece can be enhanced by writing down your reflections or keeping a journal of your thoughts and your activities, not in the way to make them public on social media, but to help you in keeping your emotional well-being in balance.
Jannette is an administrator for the Edison Township Board of Education. After undergoing surgery, Jannette suffered from gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). Doctors prescribed medication but Jannette did not want to become dependent on such. She decided to start eating foods to assist in healing. Through this process, she discovered running, biking, eating right, and the use of natural products to assist in aging gracefully. Now, she runs, bikes, and swims with her 15 year old daughter and manages to outlast her on occasion. She is passionate about helping others do the same.
Main Photo Credit: Death to Stock; Second Photo Credit: Kaspars Grinvalds/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Nejron Photo/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: Pressmaster/shutterstock.com