Many of us feel guilty when we take a break. The message of the “work ethic” is deeply ingrained in our sense of right and wrong. We find our value in getting things done. When someone asks what we’ve been up to, that’s what we talk about. God forbid, we wouldn’t want to admit that we weren’t doing anything. The down side of this ‘all work and no play attitude,’ is that we miss out on the life-enhancing benefits of leisure.
Many of us have been so busy “doing,” that we’ve forgotten how to relax. Play is seen as childish and silly. Fun is an abstract concept. When we get some free time, we often don’t know what to do with it–it is uncomfortable not to be busy. So we either spend our time in “busy work”, or, at the other extreme, we shut down, silencing the on-going mind chatter by zoning out with TV, Facebook, or computer games. It can be difficult to just “be.”
More and more scientists and researchers are recognizing the benefits of leisure and fun. Rest and relaxation are actually very good for us. Many countries and corporations have become aware of this and are beginning to offer a variety of programs for their employees–everything from Tai Chi and Meditation to required vacation time and mental health days. Yet, in the U.S., less than half of the workforce takes their full vacation. How crazy is that?
Individually, we are becoming much more conscious of our overall wellbeing. We are realizing the need to find balance–mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We are actively designing lives that reflect this through good nutrition, stress management, and planned leisure, exercise, and recreation. Rejuvenating and revitalizing play, rest, and laughter is essential to wellness.
Here are some of the life-enhancing benefits of leisure:
1. Creates space for silence. Leisure allows us space to focus on our internal activity. When the external world gets quiet we can more clearly hear our inner voice. This is the voice of our soul, our intuition, which, when we hear it, keeps our life on course.
2. Keeps our mind sharp. Improves problem-solving abilities and memory. Switching off and stepping away from the constant mind chatter helps us reboot. Our ability to learn is super-charged and our work is more productive. We return to our daily tasks with more clarity, focus, and enthusiasm.
3. Keeps our body fit. Moving is important to overall physical health. We stay strong, flexible, graceful, and energized. Lowers blood pressure, enhances sleep, helps to maintain healthier weights, and improves your resistance to disease. Laughter increases the activity of antibodies in the body by 20%, helping destroy viruses and tumor cells.
4. Reduces stress. Lowers levels of stress hormones in the body, provides enjoyment, and promotes a sense of calm. Releases endorphins to improve mood and overall well-being.
5. Creates connections. Through play and relaxation activities we strengthen the connection with our self, our family and friends, our spiritual connection, and with the world around us. It creates social opportunities and encourages interaction, which ward off stress and depression. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy. Developing a playful nature can help break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new relationships. Playing with your kids makes them smarter, better adjusted, and less stressed.
6. Strengthens imagination and creativity. Play releases us from the constraints of logical thinking, allowing us to access new ideas and inspiration.
7. Releases emotional energy. Whether we’re trying to manage anger, depression, anxiety, sadness, or any challenging emotion, physical activity and leisure provides positive outlets for release. The build up of dense negative energy is prevented, keeping the body from dis-ease.
8. Enhances pleasure and positivity. People who spend more time in leisure activities report more life satisfaction, finding more meaning in life. It increases their joy set-point and strengthens the neurological ability to experience pleasure.
9. Recalibrates our Life Force energy. Laughter, joy, peace, pleasure–qualities we experience most often experience in leisure moments, reconnect us to our core–to our Soul and to Spirit, the essential energy of life. Experiencing joy puts us at a vibrational level of 540, the level of healing.
So go ahead, add a dash of fun and a heap full of laughter. Goof off with friends, share jokes with a coworker, be silly, build a snowman in the yard, play fetch with the dog, host a game of charades, or go for a bike ride with no destination in mind.
Release yourself to the joyful abandon of childhood and reap the benefits.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
~ George Bernard Shaw