The Lost Art of Relaxation

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

When Plato said this, he captured one of the profound truths of human nature:

When we are relaxed, we reveal who we truly are.

We all have friends with whom we feel completely at ease, but we would be embarrassed if others saw how we acted around them. Is it because of peer pressure, personality differences, our environment? Whatever it is that makes us hide the most genuine version of ourselves, the important thing to remember is that we are most genuine when we are most comfortable.

It’s in moments of freedom, when there are no responsibilities demanding our immediate attention, that we let go of our inhibitions and we make decisions based off our true desires. This is usually not our experience, however, because so many of us are captivated by the myth of multitasking, or invent ways of keeping ourselves preoccupied with busy-work. This mentality is a symptom of a deeper issue, but what is common for most people is that they’ve lost the art of relaxation.

To cultivate the practice of relaxation, it’s important to examine what we spend our time doing. Are we watching Netflix, playing video games, or going down a YouTube rabbit hole? Are we running errands, trying to take care of ten things at once, or stuck worrying about future responsibilities which we cannot do anything about at the moment? In whichever category you fall, it is crucial to recognize your habits. Habits are the foundation of character, and they affect how we are esteemed as an individual.

A key distinction that I have discovered to be crucial in understanding how you should relax is whether you are an extrovert or an introvert. Relaxation is meant to rejuvenate the mind and body for further work, and extroverts typically thrive off social activities which involve people. Contrarily, introverts usually need alone-time to recharge from a busy day and, although they are not anti-social, in most cases they come out of a social activity feeling even more tired.

Solution: understand what works for you and do not be afraid to say no to what does not.

If we are truly genuine when we are relaxed, then what we choose to do is indicative of what we value.

Our leisure time is a glimpse into what we value. So what does this say about us? What does it say about our culture as a whole? Our social tragedy is a disproportion between producing and consuming. America runs on...consuming what another produces, and thus our free time is frequently filled by the work of others. What have happened to the days where people would read a book, write a poem, play an instrument, indulge a fascinating hobby, or simply engage in a stimulating conversation? We need to evaluate how much of our time is spent creating and how much is spent consuming.

Rather than just soaking in what is readily available, what if we focused on balancing out our consumption with a more active and fruitful relaxation routine? The desire for intellectual activity is quickly waning in our society, and the way we relax is just as quickly isolating us from one another as weakening us.

Solution: Define yourself by what you create, not by what you consume.

Silence is a tool for growth.

A final thought to consider is the lost value of silence. None of us can deny the overwhelming inundation of our noisy world. As a result, much of what it preaches has made us desensitized which engenders a dangerous attitude of tolerance and apathy. “The evil in the world is not due so much to the malice of the wicked, but rather, the complacency of the good” (St. Pius X).

This complacency is a perilous mentality that begins to erode the good habits which we have formed. Silence is the answer. Taking some time throughout the day for reflection is pivotal to becoming a mature and independent person. But we are scared to face the reality of who we are and many of us who struggle with insecurities or scruples have lost the ability to spend quality time with ourselves so we create a façade which is an act of dishonesty towards our own person. Silence is not a void, but a powerful force. It is a tool that can be used in many situations, and a catalyst for growth.

Solution: Next time you have the freedom to choose how you spend your time, sit in silence for a few minutes.

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