I struggle to relax. Being a Type A personality who’s always on the go, I feel like if I am not physically moving, my brain and mental headspace are in constant motion.
I recently saw a quote that said something like relaxation and rest are all part of the creative process. This got me thinking about how important relaxation and rest are. Not just physically after a week of intense workouts, but in life in general.
If you think relaxation is the opposite of productivity, think again. With the right intention, relaxation can restore you fully and set you up to achieve your short-term goals. In that sense, relaxation can be viewed as “productive.”
Now to be clear, rest doesn’t have to be productive to have value. Vegging out on the couch and watching Selling Sunset all day is totally fine in and of itself, and it’s nothing to feel guilty about! But just in case you’re also a Type A person who struggles to let yourself relax, here’s how relaxation is productive for your health and your mindset.
How relaxation can be productive
Relaxation and rest are a fundamental part of happiness, health, and success, and for good reason. According to Forbes, relaxation can boost creativity, enhance decision making, help heal the body, improve productivity and reduce stress. Needless to say, relaxation and rest can do a lot for us, even when we feel like we are not doing anything at all.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board Certified Family Physician and Mental Health and Wellness Coach, explains. “Relaxation is often thought of as a passive activity, but it can be very active and satisfying.”
When many of us think of relaxing, we think of watching movies or television shows all day, or even taking a nap. Dr. Mitchell says that though these activities may be restful, they are not necessarily the most purposeful ways to relax.
“Productive relaxation is any activity that allows you to clear your mind and focus on your breath. It can be something as simple as taking a few minutes to sit in silence with your eyes closed or going for a walk in nature. The important thing is that you are not consumed by your thoughts and that you are allowing your body to rest,” shares Dr. Mitchell.
Relaxation is good for our health
One big reason we should relax: it’s good for our health.
“Relaxation is important for both physical and mental health,” says Dr. Mitchell. “When we relax, our bodies are able to heal and repair themselves. We are also better able to manage stress, which can have serious implications for our health.”
Dr. Mitchell elaborates more. “When we relax, our heart rate and blood pressure drop, and our muscles relax. This creates a state of calm that can help to reduce anxiety and improve our mood.”
Besides reducing stress, Dr. Mitchell says relaxation can boost our immune system, help improve our sleep quality and reduce pain.
“In short, relaxation is essential for maintaining our health and well-being,” says Dr. Mitchell.
How to make relaxation productive
Dr. Mitchell offers some tips on how to make relaxing more productive and more impactful, especially if you struggle to relax naturally.
“First, choose an activity that you enjoy or that calmed you in the past. Second, set aside a specific time for relaxation each day. Third, find a comfortable place to relax. This could be outside in nature, inside in a quiet room, or even in your car during your lunch break. Fourth, focus on your breathing. Take deep belly breaths and let your exhales be longer than your inhales.”
Relaxation can involve a variety of activities that include more than just sitting in a quiet space and breathing. Dr. Mitchell mentions playing a musical instrument, reading, spending time with family or friends, taking a bath, or writing. Whatever you enjoy can be an opportunity to relax and feel purposeful in your rest.