I don’t do a very good job of paying attention to the days on the calendar that are designated for specific things but today is National Relaxation Day, and that caught my eye! I don’t know about you, but it seems that the summer has flown by and while I’ve done some wonderful things, I don’t count relaxation as one of them.
Whether we are at home, work or on the go there’s a healthy list of reasons to take time to relax. There’s a fair amount of research that supports taking some “me-time.” For some it may be reading or taking a walk, for others it could be catching up with friends or getting a massage. Whatever you choose, relaxation is a way to improve your overall health, both mental and physical. Personally, I head to the woods on my horse to enjoy the symphony of birds, and the many shades of green without other noise.
So, what does relaxation do for us? Keep reading for a list of reasons.
* It has been shown to keep our hearts in regular rhythm. Stress takes a toll on our hearts and an intense stress or rush of adrenalin could be the cause of heart failure or heart attack. We can keep our hearts happy by taking time to regularly relax in whatever way works best for you, just put it into a regular practice.
* Relaxation also lowers a risk of a stroke, which is really an attack on our brain. Deep breathing is one way to slow down our brains and reset our thinking so that we can relax our mind and body. Additional other health reasons include, reducing your risk of breast cancer and your recovery time if you have breast cancer and decreasing the feelings of depression. Levels of cortisol increase when we are stressed which keep our happy hormones reduced thus leading to feelings of hopelessness.
* Relaxation increases our immune system, by not allowing stress to interfere with the body’s inflammation response. We know that eating right and increasing some of our vitamins can also assist with being healthy, but letting go of things that stress our body is equally important. Stress for me is also a reason to have the “munchies” which we can attribute to the cortisol mentioned above. Having time for ourselves helps to decrease this feeling and creates healthier eating habits for long term effects.
* Memory is better when we are relaxed. We can recall specific things and be more focused to accomplish things than when we are frazzled. The front part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for our memory, can’t function effectively when it’s stressed, thus causing us to forget things. Try this at home, pay attention to when you are relaxed and when you are not, how does this affect your memory? What can you do to relax quickly? Try just 3-5 minutes of deep breathing. When I’m relaxed, I can also keep focused and accomplish the tough tasks at work or home in a timelier manner. Stress can actually kill brain cells that are linked to complex thinking and problem solving. Take a walk, or making a change in the scenery may improve productivity.
So, what can I do to relax? There’s a long list for you to choose from, put just pick something and give it a try: Read a book, go fishing, pack a picnic, go for a hike, listen to your favorite music, sit in the swing or hammock under the trees, spend time with friends, go golfing or swimming or just enjoy something that makes you happy. Whatever you choose, your mind and body will thank you for it and encourage you to make it a habit!
Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was previously published in The Daily Record.