Wellbeing is rarely simple. It’s a knotty and complex question. What helps one person’s wellbeing might do little for someone else. And so many different emotions come into play: joy, contentment, calm, hope, positivity, stimulus. It’s about far more than rest and relaxation alone, but these are important for anyone to “be well”. And I’ve just heard that 15 August is National Relaxation Day.
August has long been about rest and relaxation, enjoying the sunshine. School’s out, so is parliament, and many people go away. It’s like a period of down time before activity gears up again as September begins.
Obviously August isn’t a holiday month for everyone. Living in the countryside, I’m aware that harvesting makes this one of the busiest times of year for farmers. Then there are people unable to get away because of commitments or illness. And there are people like me who see holidays more as an endurance test and who rest and relax in other ways! But whether August is holiday time for you or more like any other month, those “other ways” – interests like art, music or nature – can all become opportunities to rest and relax, which I do know is really important.
One positive side of musing music, art and nature to relax is that you can fit them in whenever it becomes possible, you don’t need to set aside time. Fifteen minutes here and there, half an hour or a couple of hours, can all refresh you here and now.
I wonder what music would be on a relaxing playlist for you. Maybe try something different and new to you. Piano music can be particularly relaxing: slow and reflective, dreamy and contemplative. Try listening to Chopin’s Prelude “The Raindrop” (Op 28 No 15), Piano Concerto No 2 by Shostakovich, or Einaudi’s Le Onde. Choral music like Faure’s Requiem or pieces by John Rutter can be uplifting and calming at once. Or try upbeat, lively songs like I Will Survive – relaxation doesn’t have to be sleepy! Or listen to a reflective song like Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay, or Elton John’s Can You Feel The Love Tonight from The Lion King.
Then try experimenting with art or craft, maybe an art form or medium you’ve never used before, like glass painting, pastels or stencilling. Colouring or drawing abstract patterns can be particularly restful, as there’s something about the order and balance of patterns that relaxes my mind. Or paint stylized flowers. Photography is something I think many people take for granted now they have phone cameras to hand all the time. Try making photography a slow, mindful, thoughtful activity, maybe trying macrophotography like some close-ups of plants. Art and craft are so productive, active and creative that they can become a positive outlet for your mind and your hands, relaxing you for a time.
Relax by experiencing nature as well, maybe listening to nature’s sounds online, like birdsong or waves on a shore. Or sometimes walking, cycling or running, being physically active, can be more relaxing than sitting in the shade or in the sun. They all take the mind (as well as the body) somewhere else – and fresh air and exertion, if possible, can also make you rest and sleep more easily.
These are just some ideas, maybe one or two might be possible for you to try. Or maybe you would like to share other ideas in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002