Rest and Relaxation

Thought for the week:  Rest and Relaxation (May 25, 2015)

I hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing and restful holiday weekend. It is important to incorporate rest and relaxation into every one of our days. No doubt you have read about the benefits of getting enough sleep (weight management, energy, internal systems functions). If you struggle with sleeping, I have a number of articles with ideas that I am happy to share with you. I recently read an article on the processes of the brain while we sleep. The article was far beyond my scientific abilities to repeat here, but one of the fascinating pieces I walked away with was this: There are specific channels in the brain for the sole purpose of removing waste and it only happens while we sleep. Perhaps this is connected to why we have a more positive outlook and even mood when we get good amounts of sleep on a regular basis. Mom was right when we got cranky as young children and she would put us down for a nap!

Daily time for rest and relaxation is an important companion to sleep, contrary to our “rat race” “must be productive at all times” lifestyles. The benefits of relaxation can be found in mere moments of time. Some buddhists refer to it as a “two minute breathing space” – pausing during parts of our day for just two minutes to allow our minds to be blank, to rest. Think of it as the nap we used to take (and may end up taking more of as we age). Watching TV, talking with friends or ruminating while we jog or go for a drive – all have their purposes in our lives, but those activities don’t allow our brains to rest during hectic demanding days. We can do this by focusing on the breath. When is the last time you stopped and took a deep breath and really felt it? Take one now. Let your chest expand fully. Exhale fully. That took less than 30 seconds!

We are better able to find creative solutions to problems when we have distance from the issues at hand. This breathing space can provide that distance. Whether you take a moment at your desk to close your eyes and breathe, a brief walk focused only on your steps, on what are hearing and seeing, time in the garden or other favorite place – it doesn’t have to be for hours. Stop thinking and breathe for just a moment or two. We can all make time for it and our brains not only benefit from it, they need it.