Aug. 15, 2018 is National Relaxation Day, and you better believe this girl right here is going to treat herself to a large cup of tea, preferably the size of her face, while simultaneously cuddling under her favorite, fluffy green blanket with her kitty on the couch. Of course, my idea of a little RR might be completely different from yours, because there are some weird things out there that relax you, like those viral, goosebump-inducing ASMR videos I’ll probably never understand, or the seemingly random act of popping an entire roll of bubble wrap (I mean, if you’re going to do it, you can’t just pop one). I’m not saying I don’t have any of my own weird habits — playing with my own hair relaxes the hell out of me — but what I am saying is that, if you’re looking for unique ways to wind down in honor of National Relaxation Day, and every day thereafter, there are plenty to choose from.
Thanks to trendy Instagram and Pinterest posts, I’m sure you’ve painted this kind of extravagant vision in your head of what the best ways to relax are — applying under-eye gel masks, soaking in psychedelically-colored bubble baths, inhaling lavender essential oil from your temples — but what’s relaxing to you might not be super relaxing to someone else. For instance, full-body seaweed wraps at the spa aren’t really my thing, but I know plenty of women who love being swaddled up this way.
Relaxing is both objective and subjective. By definition, Melissa Johnson, lead massage therapist and total-body stretch provider for Massage Envy, says relaxation is both a physical and mental state in which your body is completely free from tension and anxiety. “Relaxation starts in the brain when it releases chemicals and hormones, like serotonin and dopamine, that lead to a feeling of calm,” Johnson tells Elite Daily over email, which means any activity that helps you relax is actually causing a very real, very physical change in your body.
The kinds of activities that help you relax, though? Those are subjective. Maybe social media’s picturesque ideal of what’s relaxing isn’t for you. If not, here are a few weird ways to relax to try for yourself.
Watch Or Listen To ASMR Videos To Help You Unwind
Have you heard of the ASMR phenomenon yet? Maybe you’ve come across these videos on YouTube without even realizing it. Personally, ASMR kind of creeps me out in a too-close-for-comfort sort of way, but a lot of people find that just listening to these videos can be extremely relaxing.
If you’re reading this and wondering what the heck ASMR even is, here’s what you need to know: ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, which is basically just that warm, tingling sensation on the skin you experience during a massage, or when someone plays with your hair. With ASMR videos, obviously no one is physically touching you, but they are role-playing scenarios and making soothing noises into a microphone to trigger a similar reaction — think sounds like scissors cutting into fresh construction paper, or nails lightly tapping on a desk.
In a study performed by researchers at the University of Sheffield that explored how ASMR affects the body physiologically, the results, published in the journal PLOS One, showed that those who said they genuinely felt the effects of ASMR had a reduced heart rate of 3.14 beats per minute as they watched, BBC News reports. In other words, watching ASMR videos made them feel incredibly chill from the inside out.
If you rarely make it a point to treat yourself to at least an hour or so of RR every few days, chances are, your mind might be stressing some things, and those same things are likely taking a very physical toll on your body. So if your back muscles are sore, or there’s a kink in your neck, or you just feel stiff overall, one way to relax and unwind is to ask someone to stretch you TF out.
It sounds strange, and maybe even a little painful, but Johnson tells Elite Daily that Massage Envy’s assisted stretch treatments can stretch out any tension you might feel, and that they’re way more effective than any living room yoga practice you might try out. By utilizing the brand’s proprietary Streto Method, which “combines the latest stretch research with relaxation techniques, like deep synchronized breathing, that are inspired by yoga and meditation,” the idea is that to relax your mind, you have to relax your body first.
Pop An Entire Roll Of Bubble WrapGiphy
Personally, I’m in awe of anyone who can be in the same vicinity as a roll, or really, even just one sheet of bubble wrap, and not feel tempted to burst every single bubble. And yeah, I know the sound of these bubbles bursting can get irritating fast if you’re just an innocent bystander of the popping, but when you’re the one doing the popping, it never gets old, and the reason why is because, duh, it’s relaxing as hell.
Don’t believe me? I’m not making this up to justify my own actions. Back in the early ’90s, Kathleen Dillon, a psychology professor emerita at Western New England College in Massachusetts, performed a series of experiments to prove, once and for all, that popping bubble wrap legitimately reduces stress. The Cut reports that Dillon analyzed the effects of popping these air bubbles on 30 undergraduate students, and sure enough, the college kids “felt at once calmer and more awake” after getting through only two sheets.
So, sorry not sorry to whoever else is in the room, but the next time there’s bubble wrap around and I’m stressed AF, you know what I’ll be doing.
Clean Your Entire Space Until It’s SpotlessGiphy
I know myself, and I’m totally one of those people who has a lot of trouble staying still, especially on my days off. If you, too, feel the dire need to keep yourself busy 24/7, you might find it oddly relaxing to give your living space a nice, clean sweep (both figuratively and literally).
According to Everyday Health, when you go on a cleaning spree, you’re usually in a constant state of movement, and that mobility is what’s ultimately going to help you simmer down. Philip Muskin, M.D., a psychiatry professor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, told the outlet,
My personal theory is those repetitive motions induce a trance-like state in people, and that is stress-relieving. If you zone out and get into the movement, you stop thinking about [what’s stressing you out].
OK cool, going to go fold my laundry now.
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter may not be a cure-all to everything, but it certainly has its benefits. Laughing stimulates organs like your heart, lungs, and muscles, and even triggers a rush of endorphins to liven your mood. What’s more, the clinic notes, laughter “fires up and then cools down your stress response,” causing an increased heart rate, blood pressure, and a more zen mindset.
So the idea behind laughing yoga is that you kind of fake it until you make it. This is a kind of group exercise in which your instructor will guide you through the practice, initiating and encouraging laughter throughout the session. It’s playful and childlike, and if my memory serves me right, I do seem to recall never having to consciously relax myself as a kid — I just was. So grab a mat, and get to giggling.