A Day of Ease

>> Saturday

In the old days, people used to have "nervous breakdowns." For awhile, they were out of commission. They couldn't function at their jobs or in their relationships. Back then the remedy was simply rest, quiet, and relaxation. They took a break from work, from chores, even from normal human relationships.

They just laid around and sometimes got up to eat or to go sit outside and listen to the birds chirping.

Imagine what it would be like to do that, and how slowly and leisurely you would move when you walked down the hall to get some food. You would have all the time in the world. There would be no need or desire to move at anything over half-speed, like you had completely stepped out of the rat race and none of it meant anything to you any more.

The assignment I have for you, in our quest to raise our moods, is to spend one of your next days off moving like a person who had a nervous breakdown back in the 1950s. And do this for a whole day.

Move slowly. Try not to be efficient about anything. Flagrantly waste time. Deliberately be as unhurried as you possibly can.

Watch very little or no TV that day. Television programs and advertisements make you mentally move quickly. And don't get on your computer. But if you want to do something physical, like mow the lawn or do the dishes, go right ahead, but only if you're doing it just to have something to do. Do not do it to "be productive," or because you feel you should. Don't do anything that day you feel you "should" do.

Let's call this exercise "a Day of Ease." The experience is so restorative, so peaceful, and so elevating, I think you'll be pleasantly astonished. The process is also illuminating.

Why? Because our perpetual efficiency is driven by a kind of greed — trying to cram as much in as we can — but perpetual greed wears on you and brings you down. The never-waste-a-moment mentality has become a deeply-ingrained habit of more more more — and it is so universal, most of the time we don't even notice that's the state we're living our lives in.

The Day of Ease exercise is a break from the pressure of this grinding greed. You've got to try it! Believe it or not, it's kind of hard to do. You'll keep forgetting. You'll find yourself walking quickly or being efficient with your time. This driven hurry is compulsive, and to that degree it is unhealthy.

When you are deliberate in an area you're normally compulsive, you have an opening to gain some freedom. You have choice. Like eating after fasting, you'll find you have a much better appreciation of what you're doing after taking a break from it.

You don't need a nervous breakdown to get a Day of Ease. Those days are over. In the 21st century you can relax just because it's healthy.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.

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The Quickest Way To Feel Better

>> Wednesday

Sometimes we need reminding more than we need new information. The method I'm about to tell you is something you already know. But I'll bet you don't use it nearly as often as you could. It works almost every time and it only takes a few seconds. You don't even have to stop what you're doing.

The method is to take a deep breath. If you're tense, it will help you relax and feel better. If you're angry it will help you calm down and feel better. If you already feel fine, a deep breath will make you feel better too.

Here's something you might not know about deep breaths: When you get tense, you tend to take more shallow breaths, and your breathing tends to be higher in the chest. And that kind of breathing tends to make you feel more tense, so it can become a vicious cycle.

Of course, the cycle can be broken any time by deliberately taking slower, deeper breaths, and bringing that air down lower toward your abdomen. Your abdomen should move out when you take a deep breath. This helps bring new oxygen into the lower parts of your lungs. It will make you feel better, and it's better for your health too.

Try to remember this simple practice. Do it often. It makes you feel better almost every time, you have it with you wherever you need it, and it will never wear out. While we're thinking about it, why not take a deep breath right now?

More on deep breaths:

Deep Breathing is Good For Your Health

Using Your Muscles to Relax

Beyond Deep Breaths: Slow Your Body And Mind Quickly

Adam Khan is the author of See Her Smile and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.

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