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.