It’s National Relaxation Day, a holiday initiated on August 15, 1985, at the prompting of nine-year-old Sean Moelle of Clio, Michigan (Levine, 2017). This young person noticed that constant work without any down time could make us ill. Science supports his conclusion: too much work and no play can lead to chronic stress which contributes to the development of such diseases as insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. In fact, the cardiovascular effects of stress increase your all-cause mortality risk by two to three times and decrease life expectancy by several years (Guilliams & Edwards, 2010, p. 7).
Last year, I observed the holiday by chilling out with an afternoon tea break. This year, I’m taking time to get outside and play for at least 15 minutes. Why play outdoors? Research has shown that humans experience reduced stress levels and increase overall health when engaging in activities in nature. A study conducted in Japan performed on the physiological effects of forest bathing showed that forest-like environments could lower concentrations of cortisol, reduce pulse rate, decrease blood pressure, increase parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity compared with city settings (Park, Tsunetsugu, Kasetani, Kagawa, & Miyazaki, 2010, p. 25).
Here are a few ideas of outdoor group activities you can enjoy:
- Shooting hoops
- Tossing a Frisbee
- Playing corn hole / bean bag toss
- Bocce ball
- Badminton and tennis
- Group games such as Simon Says, Red Rover, and tag.
No one to join you in play? Solo play also has a positive impact on health and stress management. Try skipping, doing a few somersaults and cartwheels in the grass, rolling down a slope of the lawn, or swing on the monkey bars at your local park.
What will you do for yourself today to observe National Relaxation Day? Please share your ideas in the comments section.
Guilliams, T. G., & Edwards, L. (2010). Chronic stress and the HPA axis: Clinical assessment and therapeutic considerations. The Standard, 9(2), 1–12.
Levine, D. S. (2017, August 15). National Relaxation Day 2017: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know | Heavy.com. Retrieved August 15, 2018, from https://heavy.com/news/2017/08/national-relaxation-day-2017-facts-origin-date-ideas/
Merriam-Webster Inc. (2019). Definition of RELAXATION. Retrieved August 15, 2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/relaxation
Park, B. J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): Evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 15(1), 18–26. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12199-009-0086-9