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A Relaxation Challenge

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It’s unlikely that you’ll ever be heralded as a successful superhero for kicking back with your feet up by your pool, spending the day in bed with your lover, taking long leisurely walks through your neighborhood, or spending an hour meditating in the woods, but the fact is that you should be.  After all, these days it takes an act of defiance for adults to brag about time spent away from the rigors of reality, yet it is the ability to relax and reset ourselves that is most likely the key to achieving happiness, and happiness is a great indicator for professional success.

Our depression, addiction and divorce rates give a clear indication of what professional achievement looks like when personal care and relationships have been ignored; isn’t it time to start taking a more holistic approach to our lives by recognizing that relaxation, fun, love and laughter are every bit (if not more!) as important to the quality of our lives as our bank balance?

If you need specifics to justify some down time in your life, consider these benefits of relaxation:

  1. Reduces stress on your heart and lowers your blood pressure.
  2. Improves your immune system and strengthens your resistance to infections like colds and flu.
  3. Improves your memory and overall stress reduction may reduce your chances of Alzheimer’s.
  4. Improves your emotional outlook and reduces depression.
  5. Lowers your chances of having a stroke.
  6. Aids in ability to sleep and encourages a healthier metabolism thus keeping you slimmer.
  7. Encourages healthier hormonal levels resulting in fewer mood swings, better skin and even a lively libido.

You don’t have to take my word for it, though.  If you are one of those people who has to tackle every project with gusto and a checklist, I suggest you take the Relaxation Challenge.   

To begin with, write down your answers to the following questions:

  1. What was the most relaxing part of last month? Did I actually enjoy it?
  2. What am I most looking forward to during this month?
  3. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being Happiest, where do you rate your overall feeling of happiness?
  4. If you are concerned about your blood pressure or weight, note them now.
  5. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most stressed and 1 being most relaxed, where do you rate yourself generally?

Now, simply take your very busy schedule for the next month and block off half an hour 3-4 times a week for rest and relaxation. Spend this time doing whatever restores your zen, whether it’s meditating, getting or giving a massage, exercising, journaling, snuggling with someone you love, having coffee on a patio, dancing, playing music, painting, reading, taking a bubble bath, or watching a silly sitcom that makes you laugh. The only rule is that you decide what’s relaxing for you, not based on someone else’s standards.  Do this for a month, without guilt (guilt is a surefire way to make anything stressful!), making sure to prioritize this time as urgent and sacrificing it only as a last resort. At the end of the month, if it isn’t obvious that you are a happier camper, go ahead and answer the questions above again before comparing them to your prior answers. Note about the applicable Honor Code: if you aren’t actually relaxing during the appointed time, it’s like cheating and your results will be invalid. Repeat the challenge again and relax already!

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