When people talk about unwinding at night, they typically mean that they chill in bed while scrolling through Twitter or that they rewatch a couple of episodes of Friends.
I love working and being productive, but I’m also big on relaxing. On enjoying time off without guilt. However, for the longest time, I thought the best way to rest was to numb your brain with tv shows.
This article isn’t about banishing Netflix. When I watch an episode after a productive day in which I completed work I was proud of, it is nice. There’s no guilt.
I’m not going to tell you to throw your television out the window or to erase your social media apps. I will tell you that watching tv every night isn’t the only way to unwind.
Relaxing can be simple
The reason we turn to the television or our phones to rest is that they’re accessible options. They don’t require any work or thinking on our part.
There are simple (and just as easy) forms of relaxation that help you decompress better than liking pictures on Instagram.
Let your mind wander
Our society is obsessed with hustling and productivity. You don’t need to listen to a self-help podcast every time you drive (and feel guilty when you don’t). You don’t need to work while you wait at the dentist’s office. You can let your brain reminisce, invent, and imagine.
I used to look at my grandma as she sat outside, staring out into space, and wonder why and how she could do nothing. It wasn’t until later that I realized — with a little bit of envy — that her brain must be untroubled.
No noise. No chatter. Just her own thoughts. So, I started letting my mind do its job without limitation. Without having to focus. Without worrying.
Sometimes, it feels so good to just sit by yourself, relax and not talk to anyone.” — Kristen Butler
I’ll put on music, lie down in bed, and daydream. I pace the living room back and forth to stretch my legs and think. Letting your brain wonder is the best way to solve problems and come up with ideas.
This probably sounds boring, but it’s calming. It’s nice to let your brain be for a moment.
Throw on some Billie Holiday and play solitaire
Or build a puzzle. Or solve a sudoku puzzle. Or color in one of those adult coloring books.
You don’t need to teach yourself how to knit or play an instrument. You don’t have to pick up some extreme hobby. You can do basic but calming activities such as the ones I listed.
“Research shows that we need to take a break and decompress so we can be at our best at work — and at home. Maybe we should ask if the life we’re working so hard to create is fun to live?” — Tina Hallis
You don’t have to go to the beach or on vacation. Some of my favorite moments are when I can sit, drink coffee, listen to jazz, and build a puzzle. Simple forms of leisure are underrated.
You don’t have to download one of those games under “Self-care” or “Mental Health” in the app store. You want to avoid your screen and constant notifications. Get yourself a pack of cards or a word-search book, and you’re good to go.
I’m an avid reader who believes there’s a book for everyone — even those who proclaim they don’t like reading. Reading is my favorite way to de-stress. (Although, as a writer, I might be biased.)
Whether you read fiction or non-fiction is your choice. What’s important is that you pick a book you’ll enjoy. Don’t force yourself to read a classic or a bestseller because everyone else is reading it. You’ll subconsciously train yourself to dread reading.
Taking Charge wrote, “A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%. It works better and faster than other relaxation methods, such as listening to music or drinking a hot cup of tea. This is because your mind is invited into a literary world that is free from the stressors that plague your daily life.”
Don’t read on your phone or tablet. Go to your local library (if you don’t want to purchase a book) and check out a book. Curl up on the couch with a blanket and let yourself breathe.
You can do any activity outside of your phone
Those were simple examples, but there are endless activities you could try to unwind. You can play the guitar that’s been gathering dust in your closet for a year. You can take a walk around the block or go bowling once a week if you can afford it.
The point is that you learn to relax without numbing your brain with Netlfix or social media. As I said, you don’t have to completely abandon your shows.
I still watch tv shows — The Bold Type, Supergirl, you name it. But I make sure to make time and space for other forms of relaxation. Take control of how much time you spend doing each of these activities.
We’re so addicted to streaming services and social media that we feel strange when we have spare time. But it doesn’t need to be abnormal. You can embrace and take ownership of it.
“Do something nice for yourself today. Find some quiet, sit in stillness, breathe. Put your problems on pause. You deserve a break.” — Akiroq Brost
Technology is huge, but it’s not everything. You can still think for yourself. You can still do activities outside of it for fun.
Let your brain be. It requires good, genuine rest as desperately as you.