No matter how busy you are, you must make time to relax. Not only will it make you feel better but, it’ll help you excel at your job. Research shows relaxing during the day has performance-enhancing benefits including:
- It increases your motivation, creativity, and attention span.
- It allows your subconscious brain to take over and generate faster solutions to your problems.
- It improves your ability to retain memories, so you’re better able to recall valuable information on the spot.
The key to maximizing these benefits is to take time to relax throughout the week. Here are six ways to wind down on weekdays:
1) Add More Laughter to Your Day
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter has a profoundly positive effect on your body. When you laugh it releases stress-fighting hormones, reduces the tension in your muscles, eases any pain and, if you often laugh over a long period, may boost your immune system.
At Prialto, we encourage laughter by starting some of our meetings with jokes. It’s a simple way to lighten everyone’s mood before we start discussing our challenges and goals for the week.
Here are some ways you can add more laughter to your office:
- Take 5-minute breaks to watch funny videos.
- Add jokes to your meetings.
- Make light of non-urgent mistakes and other minor disruptions.
The more opportunities you create for laughter, the happier your teams will be.
2) Use Your Commute as Time to Relax
Studies show that commuting has severe adverse effects on your physical and psychological well being. Try these activities to make your commute more enjoyable:
If you drive:
- Listen to calming music or a positive podcast. This will prepare your mind to dive into work.
- Catch up with family and friends. Know other people who are sitting in traffic at the same times you are? Call them and use the time to deepen your connections.
- Look around and appreciate your surroundings. Most people don’t pay nearly enough attention to their surroundings. You may be surprised by what you see.
If you take a taxi or transit:
- Wear noise-canceling headphones. This lessens the sensory impact of being surrounded by other stressed-out commuters.
- Daydream about goals, upcoming events, your relationships, etc. Instead of thinking about work, use this time to refresh your mind and focus on other essential things in your life.
- Get off a few stops early to add a walk to your commute. It’s a great way to clear your head and get your blood flowing before work.
The more relaxing you make your commute, the less stressful your days will be.
3) Volunteer for a Cause You’re Passionate About
Volunteering isn’t just a great way to make a difference; it can also be one of the most satisfying and relaxing activities you engage in. Harvard Health found that it improves your feelings of connectedness, overall mental well-being and is associated with lower blood pressure.
If you think you can’t volunteer because you don’t have large blocks of time during the work week, you’ll be surprised how many options are available for busy people. Many local food banks, homeless shelters, and other nonprofits that are open late hours offer brief evening shifts. For example, the food bank near our HQ in Portland, OR has a 6-8PM shift geared toward professionals.
If there aren’t any evening volunteer opportunities available near you, try some of these activities to give back from your home:
- Guide the blind. When you download the app Be My Eyes, you become the eyes for someone who is blind. When a blind person is struggling, they use the app to hop on a video call with a volunteer who describes the blind person’s surroundings.
- Support the dreams of underprivileged youth. The website Granny Cloud connects volunteers with youth organizations via Skype. As a Granny, you’ll encourage kids to stay focused on their education so they can create better lives for themselves.
- Use your professional skills to help a nonprofit. The website CatchaFire features tons of remote volunteer opportunities where professionals can donate their expertise to social projects.
You can boost the positive effects of volunteering by inviting your coworkers to join you.
4) Master the 10 Minute Nap
Our brains aren’t wired to stay active for sixteen to eighteen hours per day. A nap is a quick way to get the rest you need to function at your full capacity. The most common objection to naps is that people don’t have time. However, that fact is false. One study found that naps that are just 10 minutes long give you benefits including:
- Improved ability to pay attention
- Enhanced cognitive skills
- Reduced likelihood of making mistakes
- Improved mood
The benefit of only napping for 10 minutes is that when you wake up, you don’t feel groggy. Here are some places you can take a ten-minute nap at work:
- In a private office/conference room.
- Your car
- A quiet lounge area
- On a bench outside
At first, it may be challenging to nap in public but, once you develop the habit, the benefits are worth it.
5) Step Out for a Quick Walk
If you can’t get yourself to fall asleep at work, the next best thing you can do is go for a walk. There are three key benefits to going for brief walks during the day:
- It boosts endorphins (the happy hormones) which lowers your stress levels.
- It increases blood flow which increases your energy level and alertness.
- It gives your mind a break which is essential for letting your subconscious brain get involved in solving your problems.
To maximize these benefits, avoid answering messages or thinking about work while you’re on your walk. Giving yourself a few minutes throughout the day to relax is essential to perform at your highest level.
6) Strengthen Your Work Relationships
Gallup found that people who have close relationships are far more likely to be engaged and satisfied with their jobs than those who report having no close relationships. This translates into being happier, less stressed, and more motivated. Plus, work buddies are the perfect people to do the other relaxation activities in this article with.
If you don’t already have work friends or you know there’s someone in the office who sticks to themselves, work on getting to know your coworkers. Research shows the easiest way to foster new relationships is to find similarities with people. A great opening topic is food. If you share the same tastes, you can shift the conversation to making lunch plans which sets the stage for a longer chat to develop stronger connections with your coworkers.
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About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.