When you get a chance to kick back and chill at home, what do you do? Surf the web, play with SnapChat and Instagram, binge-watch Netflix? Those can all be entertaining and maybe relaxing. But they’re not the only ways to kick back—in fact, they’re not the best ways to relax. Screens stimulate the brain in ways that can make it hard to fall asleep, for instance.
Even if sleep isn’t an issue for you, you might want to think about expanding your repertoire. There may be times when your devices aren’t working or you just aren’t in the mood to look at a screen. It’s worth finding out what other forms of relaxation work for you—and you may find some of them much more satisfying than hunching over a tablet.
Here are some things to try:
Enjoy a pet—yours, a friend’s, or a neighbor’s. Cuddle with your cat and just enjoy his quiet quirky company. Ask if you can throw sticks for your neighbor’s dog. Watch fish do their slow, swimmy dance (it’s very zen).
Read a magazine. Like, an actual paper magazine. Buy some glossy edition on travel or home deco or sports or whatever you’re into; read a newsmagazine. Notice how reading on paper compares with reading similar things on-line. For some people, print articles are more relaxing partly because there are fewer distractions. You can focus on the words and pictures without anything popping up or swirling around.
Go for a walk around your neighborhood. Leave your phone at home (or at least turn it off). Just stroll along and notice what’s around you. What plants are growing? Are there buildings you’ve never really seen before? What colors, sounds, and scents do you notice? What does your body feel like as you move? (You might try this with and without music and notice how that makes it different.)
Take a bath. Have a lovely, warm soak, with or without bubbles, a magazine, or a partner. A bath is a wonderful way to decompress after a long day at work or before bed.
Do a hobby or craft. There are endless relaxing ways to use your hands. Knitting, drawing, scrapbooking, cooking, building or refinishing furniture, building models—any of those wonderful retro things let you create something in the real world.
Savor a cup of herbal tea. The soothing warmth comes in lots of flavors, any of which can help you slow down a bit. Sip slowly to calm your nervous system.
Read a book on a Kindle or, better, on paper. If you haven’t read a book in years, maybe it’s worth trying again. It’s not like you’re in high school and have to read Silas Marner; you get to pick. Read (or re-read) Harry Potter. Try a mystery or chick lit or a biography of someone you admire. Ask friends, family, or your local bookseller or librarian for ideas (they’ll be delighted to make suggestions). If you’re rusty, it may take you a bit to settle into sitting quietly with a book, but I bet you’ll find the change of pace enjoyable once you get into it.
Stretch or do yoga. Any kind of slow, gentle movement invites you into your body and out of the swirl of the day.
Do a puzzle. Jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, crosswords, word searches, or any other kind of puzzle can help you chill—especially if you do them on paper. There’s a tactile element, and the sustained focus helps you put the distractions of the day out of your mind. (I can get so in the zone with a jigsaw puzzle that the rest of the world fades away….)
Work on a home project. Repair something. Clean out a closet. Reorganize a kitchen cabinet. Paint a room. You’ll end up with a sense of accomplishment that no amount of screen time could ever create.
Talk on the phone. By which I do not mean “text.” Actually talk, in real time, to another human being. You might call an older relative (who’d be thrilled to hear from you!), an old friend, or any buddy. It’s a completely different experience from sending a message. You share warmth, tone of voice, and the flow of conversation and pauses, all of which help you get to know each other better.
Let your mind wander. Just sit and chill. Notice what thoughts, feelings, and ideas come up. Let them flow around in your brain without trying to direct them. Are there things you feel uncomfortable about? energized about? things that call to you, or that you’d rather escape from? All that is information about who you are and what you need and want. Daydreaming is becoming a lost art—but it’s an art that can help you know yourself and create the life that’s right for you.