The Art of Relaxation
This past summer while wandering through a gift store at a local resort, my husband and I came across a book called “The Art of Doing Nothing.” My husband immediately picked up the book, handed it to me, and asked, “Did you write this?” He thought he was being funny; I laughed because I actually could have written it.
My darling husband and I are two very different people. He is a hummingbird, a workaholic, and always on the go. I on the other hand am either going 100 miles an hour or I’m stopped. There is no in between for me; balance is something I strive for. I’m all about extremes, and I always have been.
When I say my husband is a hummingbird I probably should refer to him as a shark. If he stops moving I’m pretty sure he thinks he’ll die. I can spend an entire Sunday in bed with a good book, a rainy day on the sofa in front of the fireplace, or lose hours in front of the television with a season’s worth of DVR programming. My husband simply can’t imagine doing nothing for the sake of doing nothing. Even on vacation he brings work for his downtime. He swears his way of relaxing is getting stuff done. The only times I can recall him sitting and doing nothing in the 19 years of our marriage was on two occasions: the first was the worst flu either of us had ever had, and the second was after foot surgery. Both times he was stuck on the sofa in the living room with nothing to do. The longer he sat doing nothing, the grumpier he got.
So as he asked if I had written that book, I was thinking perhaps he should read it.
For the rest of you out there who think you’re sharks and have to keep moving, let me give you five suggestions for simply doing nothing. I highly recommend it.
• Meditate — My husband thinks meditation is a euphemism for taking a nap. Frequently, I will admit, my meditation does end in a nap. Truthfully, I like the quiet time with me. It helps me get my thoughts together and puts me in a place where I can be more productive.
• Nap — research has shown that a 20-minute nap can actually reduce the risk of a heart attack. My argument here is that I’m doing my cardio. In all seriousness, many cultures consider siesta part of a normal day. Most of us are in communication 24-7, few of us get eight hours of sleep a night. Getting a nap will give you more energy and leave you feeling much better.
• Light a fire — Fireplace, fire pit, or a simple candle; the mere act of gazing into a flame will empty even the most cluttered minds. It’s almost instant relaxation. In Southern California where I live, I am guilty of actually having the air-conditioning on with a fire in the fireplace.
• Stargazing — Most of us live in areas where city streetlights inhibit our ability to stargaze, but that shouldn’t stop you. Get a blanket and go outside. Early morning, midday or nighttime – it doesn’t matter. Gazing up at the sky puts things in perspective. You begin to realize what a tiny role you play in the whole of everything. Often, even your problems don’t seem quite as big.
• Doodle — The act of putting pen to paper for no other purpose than to mark upon it is incredibly freeing. So much of our day – my day at least – is spent writing, corresponding, responding, texting, twittering and the like. To simply doodle is indulgent. It is relaxing. It is truly the art of doing nothing.
The truth is, relaxing really is doing something. You are lowering your blood pressure and your heart rate, reducing stress hormones, and ultimately doing something very healthy. We all live lives that have us going day in and day out. It’s important to find 15 to 30 minutes a day to do nothing, and to simply relax. Ultimately you’ll be happier, healthier and may even live longer.