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03.14 - March

Emotional well-being
For the love of leisure: Why you need your R & R
We all need breaks — discover seven ways to make the most of your free time

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By Arleen Fitzgerald, L.I.C.S.W.
(Click for author bios in About us)

You work hard. But, how are you at relaxing? It should be easy, right?

When we're busy, it can be tough to unwind. We'd like to and hope to … when we get around to it. But, relaxation and recreation are more than wants — or wishes. They're essentials for your well-being.

When you enjoy your downtime — free from work or duties — it offers an emotional lift that gives you energy and confidence to tackle everyday challenges. And, losing yourself in leisure may even decrease harmful stress-related hormones and strengthen your immune system.

The bottom line: You can be happier, healthier and more productive when you take time for leisure.

A new kind of to-do list
Day-to-day life can get full and hectic. But, when free time is limited, it's that much more precious. So, make the most of yours by pursuing activities that soothe your mind, spark your creativity or otherwise give you a boost.

Do you need a little inspiration? Here are seven quick ideas to get you started renewing and recharging:

1. Put "me time" on the calendar. Treat it like an important appointment — because it is.

2. Power off. If at all possible, designate times at home to unplug completely. That means no TV, Internet, cellphone, computer, etc.

3. Revive a blast from the past. Pick up a hobby you once enjoyed — whether that's tennis, knitting or playing the trombone. Or, reach for a dream. For example, maybe you've always wanted to try your hand at painting or playing the piano.

4. Take a nature break. A light breeze. Blue skies. A flowing stream. The natural world can calm your nerves and re-energize you.

5. Play. Give yourself permission to be a kid again. Get out a board game, a basketball or modeling clay. Encourage others to join in. Play spurs imagination and promotes creative problem solving. Best of all, it makes us happy.

6. Couple fun with fitness.* Take a bike ride. Or, walk around one of your favorite neighborhoods or parks. Invite a friend along — and you've got a triple win for well-being: You're recharging, getting some exercise and strengthening your social life.

7. Delight in small moments. Even on your busiest days, do at least one feel-good activity. It can be something simple. Call a friend who makes you laugh. Read a chapter in a good book. Take a warm bath.

*For safety's sake, talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level.
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Quick tip

Relax your surroundings
A cluttered room or reading nook doesn't feel leisurely. Clearing your space can help clear your mind, too.

Fast fact

What's in a word?
Did you know that the word recreation comes from re-create? It's a good reminder that we need free time to give our bodies and minds time to refresh themselves.

Finding your flow

Do you ever get so absorbed in an activity that time just flies by? You may be enjoying a mental state called flow. And, that's a good place to be. Being in your flow zone can:
  • Create a sense of bliss and serenity
  • Restore energy and reduce anxiety
  • Boost confidence — and give you clarity
  • Increase creativity