By Dr. Erin Wiley, Naturopathic Doctor
Myth #1: Relaxation is unproductive.
Our culture is driven by results. There is a constant sense that we need to produce more, grow more, and achieve more. If we are not getting the results we want there is a sense that we should be doing more, or learning more, or taking on more to be competitive. Adding more and more to the demands on our time and energy can make relaxation feel impossible or simply counter to our beliefs about progress.
This misguided belief could not be further from reality. When we relax, our body repairs, our body gets stronger, and there is tremendous value in this process. When we relax we assimilate our memory, our focus gets sharper, we can process information better and we become more decisive. When we relax we connect with ourselves, this leads us to connect better with others, we become more affectionate, we restore our libido, we feel more passionate, we become more motivated, we develop more empathy. These qualities are very valuable because they allow us to communicate better and, when we get back to work, ultimately we perform better.
Relaxation is essential to optimal productivity, not to mention that it helps us to prevent chronic disease like heart disease, cancer, anxiety and depression. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to relax.
Myth #2: Watching TV or trolling the internet or social media is relaxing.
There is an important difference between distraction and relaxation. TV, social media and the internet are designed to captivate our attention. They provide entertainment value and can be a pleasant distraction from our stress. However, the health benefits of distraction are not the same as true relaxation. If your brain is not at rest, your body is not at rest and you will miss out on all the benefits of recovery and repair. If you are looking for more energy, better mood, focus and concentration you are not going to find these feelings on the couch. You need to find an activity that is truly relaxing to your mind and body. Our nervous system is calmed when we engage in the present moment, like walking in nature, meeting up with a good friend, strolling an art gallery or new neighbourhood, or taking a dance, cooking or painting class. The difference is that relaxation engages our senses, it connects our mind and body, and it allows the mind to wander, connect and create. With access to the internet at our fingertips it is very difficult to avoid getting sucked into the most popular distraction. So put down your phone, get outside and open your heart.
Myth #3: Once I get this [inset: project, promotion, education, the kids grow up] done then I’ll have time to relax.
This is perhaps the biggest lie we can tell ourselves. The truth is that the “to-do” is never ending, there is always another project, another promotion, more dirty laundry or another form of self improvement we need to take on. If we do not make relaxation part of our regular routine we will miss out on the beautiful life we are trying to create. We need to learn to enjoy the process as much as we expect to enjoy the results.
Dr. Erin Wiley is a naturopathic doctor with a strong focus on preventative and integrative medicine. She is the Owner and Clinic Director of the Integrative Health Institute, an integrative medical clinic located in downtown Toronto. Erin has a strong clinical emphasis on stress related illness, anxiety, depression and hormone balance. As a naturopathic doctor, Erin is passionate about working with people to help them better understand their health and achieve their health goals.