8 Wonderful Ways to Unwind


Celebrate this National Relaxation Day by doing a whole bunch of nothing too tasking.

It's true, there are all kinds of silly faux holidays, and they seem to be the lifeblood of social media. But while I may not give much credence to National Hug a Housefly Day, August 15 is a day that I plan to embrace: National Relaxation Day.

As the world becomes ever more stressful and we're working ourselves to the point of becoming a species of exhausted lumps, a bit of leisure can't come some enough. So with that in mind, here are some ideas on how to get busy not being busy.

1. Unplug

Turn off the phone, unplug the tablet, shroud the computer and television. And just like that, poof! No politics, no needy friends and family members, no bad news from near or far, no old sweethearts flaunting their new sweetheart, no work worries, no perfect friends vexing you with yet another perfect vacation photo on social media, the list goes on. A few years ago Katherine wrote about the gift of digital detox; it's worthwhile reading.

2. Read a book

I don't know how it happened, but somehow one of my most beloved pastimes – reading a book – became a casualty of my too-busy life. I have tried to make some time to start reading again, but it takes some juggling. Do you still find to read? If not, let's all make a promise to each other to start a new book in honor of relaxation.

3. Take a nap

From boosting memory to lowering blood pressure, research shows that a little midday shut-eye has all kinds of perks. (See 7 surprising benefits of an afternoon nap for more.) Give that neglected hammock some love, snooze on a daybed, plop a blanket on the lawn ... find a perfect spot, close your eyes, and slip into a little daytime slumber.

4. Go for a swim

If you have a pool or live nearby one, maybe you go swimming a lot. The funny thing is, so many people I know who have a pool do not go swimming very often. I don't have a pool and don't love public pools – and getting to the beach requires Herculean efforts within the NYC public transit system ... so I don't get much of a chance to swim. WHich is really sad, because few things are as relaxing as floating in water. If you are near a body of water, relax with a dip!

5. Walk in the trees

The anxiety-quelling power of trees is so established that in Japan, "forest bathing" is a part of work culture. You can take a walk in the forest, should you have one on hand, but even time spent in an urban park can impart upon you the healing powers of our big green friends. Here's the how-to: How to practice 'forest bathing' in a park.

6. Cook something from scratch

While spending time in the kitchen may not sound very relaxing to some, I can think of few things more relaxing than cooking or baking something from scratch. Now if you are rushing to get dinner on the table for a crowd of hungry mouths, that's not so relaxing. But if you have some leisure time to make some pie dough, stuff some squash blossoms, make homemade pasta, bake a cake – it can be a wonderfully meditative, mindful (delicious) thing to do.

7. Knit something

There's no better way to unwind than to literally, unwind – as in a skein of yarn. No better way to ease out the knots than to make some new ones! As Katherine writes in Don't stop knitting! It keeps you healthy, "Knitting is supremely relaxing, which is extremely important for reducing stress and anxiety."

8. Go birding

If you need further motivation to get lost in the splendours of nature, why not take some binoculars out and go look for birds? This is terrifically therapeutic; a way to slow down, be still, look, and listen. It can done anywhere there are birds, which is just about anywhere, and doesn't require a lot of experience. As a way to start, you could consider getting the super cool SongSleuth app, which identifies birds by their song.