The instruction manual of our times on how to relax correctly goes like this: Unplug. Step away from the computer, put away your mobile phone, don’t give in to FOMO, be fully present.
I’m totally guilty of spending mindless minutes (or sometimes hours!) reading blogs, browsing Pinterest, or texting when I’m bored or want to relax in the evening after work. It makes me wonder: Am I relaxing “right”? A really lazy day for me probably looks a lot like this: sleep in late, eat a half-assed “meal” that requires little to no prep (think: pita and veggies dipped in hummus, bowls of cereal, etc), TV watching, checking social media sites, book reading.
The key word here is LAZY. This is not necessarily the usual way I would spend a day off work. I love to go outside, to hike or snowshoe, breathe fresh air, pet a dog, have brunch with friends, cook an involved meal from scratch with fresh ingredients, attend a play or take in some sort of cultural event, connect with others, go for a drive and take in beautiful scenery. But I’m unlikely to do many of these things when I’m very worn down.
Here’s my thought: I think we should be making a distinction between the best activities for free time when you need to recharge, and free time when you have plenty of energy.
The instruction manual hits the nail on the head for those times when we are bored. In my experience, in this state your brain is hungry for something novel to focus on. It is fully charged and looking for a challenge. This is not time best spent playing solitaire on your phone. This is time you should reach out to other humans, take a class, focus on learning a new skill, engage in stimulating conversation. Putting your phone down helps to properly take in these experiences!
But when I’m zapped, tired and overworked, it’s sometimes all the energy I can muster to sit on the couch with my laptop and read up on current events or listen to a favourite podcast while playing a computer game. The alternative, honestly, would be to lie down and take a nap, disengaging from the world of consciousness entirely. I don’t think I should be apologizing for this. As a textbook introvert, I am pretty boring company if I go to social events while depleted; I turn into a rapidly wilting wallflower. I need some alone time to get that energy back. One of the best ways for me to do this has generally been to hide out with my computer and allow my thoughts to wander while playing a minimally taxing game, or reading light fluffy articles that make me laugh.
The struggle is to keep this balanced and not sway too heavily toward time spent idly with electronics. But electronics also give me the gift of recharging. I don’t like my gifts with a side of guilt.