The weekend is the ideal time to unwind, put aside your laptop/tablet/phone and enjoy a little downtime. Sounds easy, right? Yet it’s becoming more difficult than ever for people to switch off – even as the evidence mounts about the vital importance of relaxation to the brain.
Neuroscientists have found that our brains require downtime in order to process data, consolidate memory and reinforce learning. The good news for those who struggle to relax is that it’s something we can actually learn and practice.
Why not slow down by building the following into your weekend plans?
1. Reading is not only a pleasurable pursuit but one that’s been proven to actively aid relaxation. Researchers at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by as much as 68%. Don’t have time to lose yourself in a book? Even six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by more than two thirds, the study found (but no, reading your twitter feed doesn’t count).
2. Taking a walk in nature is another activity that’s been scientifically proven to reduce stress and boost feeling of well-being. Think about all that fresh air, natural light, gentle exercise and the absence of distracting urban stimuli … don’t you feel better already?! We Dubliners are lucky to have the Dublin mountains on our doorstep and the Dublin Mountains Partnership runs free guided walks and hikes.
3. Relaxation techniques have been found to release muscle tension, lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. The trick is finding the technique that works best for you. There are lots to choose from, including age-old techniques like meditation and more modern tools like progressive muscle relaxation. The latter is very simple and therefore a good place to start: tense then relax the muscles in your toes, and progressively work your way up the body to your head. Tense for five seconds, relax for 30 and repeat.
Looking for more suggestions for help plan your weekend? Check out our list of the some of the best activities to do in Dublin– that won’t cost you a penny!