If you only read one thing, make it this:
“We are way over-stimulated, and doing too much, trying to be all things to all people and feeling guilty when we do nothing.”
Can you remember the last time you did NOTHING? Chances are, you probably don’t – because in a crazy-busy world, it can be difficult to switch off when the opportunity arises… meaning we’re likely to fill any spare time ticking things off the to-do list. Plus, smartphones or the TV are often the go-to time filler, and while screen time can be a distraction, it isn’t necessarily an effective way of giving your mind a rest from worries.
“We are way over-stimulated, and doing too much, trying to be all things to all people and feeling guilty when we do nothing,” explains integrative psychologist Leanne Hall. “The word ‘busy’ has become synonymous with success, achievement and leading an interesting and fulfilled life. [It seems like] if you’re not busy, then you’re either lazy or boring, or unsuccessful!”
But if we don’t make relaxing a regular hobby, we’re depriving the body of a valuable way to reduce the damaging effects of stress. Relaxation lowers blood pressure, improves digestion, reduces muscle tension, slows the heart rate and improves mood… great reasons to make relaxation a priority.
The first step to relaxing is actually getting comfortable with the idea of doing nothing. It might be harder than it sounds!
“Let yourself be bored,” advises Hall. “Relaxation is not about swapping one stimulating task for another one. While watching Netflix and chatting with friends is important from a social and leisure point of view, relaxation involves learning to be still and being mindful.”
There’s a ton of research proving that being more mindful – which means slowing down, focusing on the present and accepting things as they are – can improve your emotional and mental wellbeing.
But if that doesn’t float your boat, there are other ways to wind down. Hall recommends: “Self-reflection and reducing excessive external stimulation, even if it’s only for 10 minutes a day. Try mindful walking, listening to music, having a massage or taking a long bath.”
Can’t do nothing? Give back instead
Another effective way to make better use of your spare time is to give it away. Say what? It’s true – a US study found that busy people who gave away time through volunteering or compassionate activities for others felt like they had used their time well. The result: a feeling that they had more time. So put up your hand to help at your kids’ school, ask if your company has a volunteer program, or maybe log on to GoVolunteer.com.au to find a not-for-profit project you can get on board with.