Something I have learned in the past and had to re-learn recently is that there are different ways to relax and HOW you relax impacts directly on the level of energy recharge that you get from the activity.
My reminder came at a ‘Day on the Green’ concert. My usual form of weekend relaxation recently has been very low-key – pottering around the house, going out for lunch etc. These weekends have been restorative yet this day at the concert was exponentially more energising – even though it was a 12 hour excursion with a lot of time on a bus.
The increased energy I felt from one long but enjoyable day was much higher than it would have been from a quiet weekend with no commitments at home.
So what was the difference? It was the mental rest.
Pottering at home was physically, emotionally and socially restful, but often I was not resting mentally. Reading, researching, tweeting, and pondering solutions to work challenges might help you prepare and reduce stress during the week. They are NOT mentally restful.
Mental rest allows you to relax your body and mind, to connect with the world around you. According to rest expert Matthew Edlund, it can lower your blood pressure, lead you to feel joy even in stressful situations and to reacquire a sense of understanding and purpose in situations.
One of the important things about relaxing and recharging effectively, that many people are not aware of – and I needed reminding of – is that to get the maximum benefit from your relaxation time, you need to relax actively.
That doesn’t necessarily mean going jogging or playing tennis (though it could do if you enjoy it). It means doing something that is going to absorb you. Something where you are not passively sitting on the sidelines watching others but are involved to the extent that you lose track of time. This state is called ‘flow’ and it is through the state of flow that your energy will really begin to recharge.
What Activities to Choose
Flow activities will be different for all of us but there are three common characteristics:
1. It must be enjoyable.
2. It helps you to lose your sense of time because you’re so absorbed in it.
3. It must give more energy than it takes.
As energy expert Tony Schwartz writes in his book The Power of Full Engagement, “we need energy to perform, and recovery is more than the absence of work.”
What flow activities can you do to make sure you recharge actively and achieve that often-needed mental rest?