It’s late on a Tuesday night, and I’m hunched over on the couch, scribbling furiously with my favorite red pen in a large sketchbook. I pause for a moment, grinning at the irony of outlining a blog post about the importance of relaxation and leisure at 10:45 pm after a hectic day.
The truth is, leisure often feels challenging for me. I would certainly possess more leisure time if I didn’t take on any extra projects outside of work, but life feels short and the possibilities to learn and create feel boundless. I thrive in the realm of left-brained activities like writing a blog or learning a new language; while their linear nature feels comfortable and familiar to me, I sometimes neglect to slow down and play as a result.
When I find myself in this zone (the “outline blog posts at 10:45 pm” zone) I’m forced to remind myself that true leisure time is crucial for mental health and overall well-being; that it’s the indispensable flip side of the goalsetting and Chasing-Your-Dreams coin that I talked about in my last post. In fact, I’ve found that allowing (or even scheduling, if necessary) time for leisure and play enables me to work and focus more effectively, and that my productivity (and general life enjoyment) suffers if I don’t carve out enough unscheduled time for myself.
In the coming weeks, I challenge you to consider whether you’re allowing yourself enough leisure in your life. Make time for relaxed conversations and exploring ideas without an agenda and making connections between subjects; swim in rivers and lakes and watch pig videos on youtube and play games and cook dinner with your friends and walk to the farmer’s market. Drink your coffee without checking e-mail at the same time and listen to your favorite album and bake some cupcakes and have a picnic in the park and take a nap. Consider taking a whole day in which you do absolutely nothing productive.
I think you’ll find that this unscheduled time benefits you in a number of ways, from building relationships to connecting ideas to decompressing to getting inspired. But in addition to that, I think you’ll find that this time is important for its own sake, simply because it feels good.
If leisure feels difficult for you, attempt the following leisure challenge this week. Roll a ten-sided die (or simply pick a number) and spend at least an hour completing the corresponding leisure activity listed below.
- Take a nap or do “prone yoga” for at least an hour.
- Purchase a small, delicious indulgence, and eat it while watching something cute on netflix. (I recommend Make Happy, the new Bo Burnham comedy special)
- Invite a friend or a few friends over for a simple meal/dessert.
- Spend a couple of dollars on some bath products, and take a long, indulgent bath.
- Take a blanket outside and lie in the sun. Get the Headspace app on your phone and complete the first meditation session.
- Go for a walk or hike, solo or with a friend.
- Go to the library and pick out a fiction book that catches your eye.
- Use spotify to create a playlist of songs that make you feel good, or help you relax, or make you want to dance around.
- Lie on the floor drinking wine and listening to jazz albums (this suggestion courtesy of songwriter Carsie Blanton)
- Pack a picnic and eat it in a park with a friend