Most people, when they imagine relaxation, imagine inactivity. Hot baths, meditation, Netflix and chill, sitting by a pool, drink in hand–all of these are popular forms of relaxation, and they all involve parking oneself in one spot. My approach is different. I suggest getting outside and getting active to relax. Walking, gardening, and sports are all ways to get out of your head and into a relaxed state.
Most people wouldn’t normally think of brisk activity as a way to relax, but it’s truly the best way. Studies have shown that exercise can reduce anxiety more effectively than anti-anxiety drugs, especially over the long term. Relaxation isn’t just a mental state, either, it’s a physiological one, and exercise is shown to reduce physiological signs of stress by lowering blood pressure and reducing levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Exercise also causes the body to release endorphins, natural chemicals that produce a feeling of well-being and reduce pain in the body.
Sometimes the long-term goals of fitness can be hard to keep in focus. When that happens, it’s good to also remember the short-term feeling of well-being that exercise brings about. If you think about it in the right way, and focus on the right feelings, exercise doesn’t just have to be about delayed gratification. It can also be an immediate relief from life’s stressors.