For most people, relaxing means binge-watching Netflix and scrolling through social media. In reality, both of these activities have the potential to heighten your stress.
Maybe what you really need is screen-free relaxation.
The Problem With Screens
Over the past decade, there’s been a steep rise in the number of people who find it difficult to switch off their minds and fully relax. Sure, people are pretty good at mindlessly browsing Facebook and streaming YouTube videos on their phones … but to actually relax?
Too many people are clueless about what this looks like in practice. “For many of us, this deadening retreat to our screens is both a reason for and a consequence of the fact that we no longer know how to relax and enjoy ourselves,” Moya Sarner writes for The Guardian. “Our screens and what we use them for are all techniques of distraction.”
The problem with trying to relax while looking at a screen is that you’re using the same device that causes your stress otherwise. It’s the same source of so much frustration – including work emails and phone calls – so your brain may not be able to shift gears and unwind.
On top of the psychological effects of screens, there are physiological challenges. The blue light emitted from screens is known to keep you on high alert and prevent the proper secretion of melatonin, which aids in sleep.
So the more time you spend looking at a screen – particularly in the evening hours – the more challenging it becomes to enjoy the ultimate form of relaxation (that is, sleep).
Four Ways to Enjoy Screen-Free Relaxation
The key is to compel yourself to move away from screens during the periods when you want to relax. The second step is to give yourself something healthy to substitute for them.
Here are four excellent suggestions:
There’s something powerful and refreshing about going out into the great outdoors. Plus, when you have no screens around, there’s no pressure to take pictures, FaceTime a friend, check your email, or search Google for answers to every last question that pops into your head.
It’s just you, the trail, and the views. You’ll be persuaded to immerse yourself in nature without worrying about what you might be missing out on. It’s a humbling and relaxing experience.
2. Reading a Book
Open up a book – an actual physical book with paper pages that you turn with your fingers – and plunge into a story. For the best results, choose a novel. Fictional tales tend to provide a better escape than a nonfiction account that might actually stir up more stressful thoughts.
In addition to serving as a source of relaxation, reading can also make you feel accomplished and productive. All it takes is roughly 10 pages of reading per day and you can consume an entire book each month.
Do you remember the days when you opened a brand-new box of crayons, turned over the pages of a coloring book, and got lost in the art of coloring? There’s no reason you can’t return to these simpler days as a grownup. In fact, adult coloring books are officially a “thing.”
While you can find adult coloring books at many stores these days, you can also print your own coloring book and have it delivered to your doorstep. You’ll be amazed by how therapeutic this simple activity of coloring can be.
You’ll find yourself drifting into a world that’s far removed from your daily stresses and anxieties. This is also a great way to spark creative thinking when you find yourself in a rut.
4. Doing a Puzzle
Much like coloring, the simple act of putting together a jigsaw puzzle can transport your mind away from the stress of the day and into a world of possibility and relaxation. For best results, work on a puzzle a little at a time.
You can even buy a certain kind of mat that allows you to roll up your progress at the end of each evening. Simply unroll the mat on your work surface the next time you’re ready to resume.
Adding it All Up
Your version of relaxation will differ from the next person’s. For some, hiking is an incredible retreat that balances the mind and puts it in equilibrium with nature.
For others, it’s a sweaty and exhausting exercise in misery … and that’s okay! It’s all about finding the activities that are relaxing to you, in order to give up your dependence on a screen.