January 14, 2010 at 6:36 pm , by Louise Sloan
When I get home from a full day of slumping in an office chair in front of a computer screen, the first thing I want to do is… sprawl on the sofa in front of a TV screen.
This always seems like the absolute best and quickest way to relax—especially if there’s a nice glass of pinot noir or a frosty pale ale involved. But recently I was reminded that the opposite is generally true: If you really want to de-stress, get off the sofa and DO something!
There’s science behind this advice. Physical activity itself will lower stress significantly (and protect you from a TV-watching-induced death—check out this alarming recent study). But there’s another angle, too: New experiences (and we’re not talking new sitcom episodes!) give you a shot of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are feel-good, energizing brain chemicals. For that reason, at least one expert recommends novelty as a way of enhancing date night. But why not enhance other nights, too?
Before I became a mom, I’d experience those cool chemicals when I’d drag myself, often unwillingly, to a dance class after work. I’d feel like I didn’t have the energy to do anything but collapse, yet an hour later I’d be energized and have forgotten most of my troubles.
As the single parent of a preschooler, I can’t do 8 pm dance classes anymore—or even watch a sitcom, for that matter—but this past week I made a point of doing new, shared activities with my son. Check out what we tried… and what happened.
Monday: A rousing game of “I Can Do That!”, which involves silly Dr. Seuss activities like balancing things on your head and repeatedly using the word “trick-a-ma-stick.”
Tuesday: Tot Yoga, a parent-toddler yoga video starring Scott’s 2-year-old best friend and her aunt, doing yoga moves that imitate animals (lions, monkeys and bears, oh my!).
Wednesday (last night): The No Om Zone, a video with three easy 15-minute yoga workouts produced by a friend of a friend. (Both videos are perfect for beginners… and 3-year-olds!)
All three nights, Scott and I were off the sofa, laughing and doing new things and you know what? I ended up feeling much more refreshed than I would have been by a sitcom (or a storybook) and some Chardonnay. Unexpected bonus: My son is now really into us doing yoga together, so I may not even be allowed to sit on the sofa anymore! Bye-bye, winter weight gain!
Moms (and non-moms) out there: What simple new thing have you done lately that helped renew your energy and cut your stress at the end of a long day?
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