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5 Easy Ways to Relax

Skip the glass of wine and try these de-stressing activities instead

It’s a Friday night and, naturally, you want to unwind. Chances are you’ll want to knock back a few choice libations to chill out, but before you reach for that glass of Merlot, you might want to reconsider. Alcohol consumption slows down weight loss with its empty calories and the way it metabolizes in your body actually causes more stress internally, even if you feel relaxed.

But between work and the kids, you deserve a break. Good news: You don’t need booze to relax and rejuvenate. You can boost your well-being, including your body, with these healthier options.

Go for a night run
Believe it or not exercise is an excellent way to relax. Everyone knows exercise is great for the body, but it’s also known to relieve stress. That’s why going for a night run is a great option. You’ll switch snacking on the couch for grabbing your runners and improving your time (and if you’re a House of Cards fan, you can pull a Frank and Claire Underwood and plot your biggest schemes). With a number of country-wide events, it’s evident that night running is catching on. Go it alone, or join one of these groups and give it a try:

  • Night Race
    5K and 10K runs through city parks in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.
     
  • A Midsummer Night’s Run
    Runners dress like fairies and race along Toronto’s waterfront and Beach neighbourhoods after sunset.
     
  • Night Run Terrors
    Don’t be scared away by the name. This Toronto running group keeps their route unique each time and even stops at different places along the way, including festivals and street art spots.

Tell stories
There’s a good reason why we read books to children at bedtime: it not only improves sleep, but it results in better cognitive development. Whether you’re telling or hearing a story, you’re in another place – far, far away from your current worries. So why not a take a page from your kid’s bedtime ritual and engage in some storytelling for yourself? Share a story with a loved one, or jot one down one in a journal. If you’re game, there are a number of storytelling workshops and events across the country, including Storytelling Toronto, Vancouver Storytellers, the Alberta League Encouraging Storytellers and Storytellers Circle of Halifax. These are great opportunities to not only improve your storytelling, but also to socialize and – you guessed it – kick back.

Try an adult colouring book  
When you want to de-stress, it’s okay to regress a little. Play – the favourite pastime of your youth -- is a terrific way to unwind for adults. Once reserved for children, colouring books for adults have become a worldwide trend – and for good reason. Colouring has been proven to be helpful for those who suffer from depression and anxiety because, like meditation, it switches off our brains and allows us to be in the moment. Adult colouring books can be found in range of stores. So grab a book and some crayons and let your creativity go wild. 

Connect with animals
There’s a reason why pet therapy is growing. Animals provide a constant source of comfort and support, and they also help bring out our nurturing side. Studies have shown that pet ownership can reduce stress-induced symptoms. Petting a dog has been proven to lower blood pressure and even watching a tank full of fish can do the same. So, if you are looking to relax, take Fido to the park and toss a ball. Snuggle with your cat. If you don’t own a pet, visit your local petting zoo or aquarium or volunteer as a dog walker or cat socializer at your local Humane Society. It’s probably the most adorable way to relax out there.

Give a massage
It might seem counterintuitive but giving someone else a massage can actually relax you! Not only does it lower anxiety levels, but also as you’re paying close attention to the interplay between your hands and their skin, you’re essentially going into a meditative state. Use some essential oils – lavender to reduce anxiety or peppermint to help with fatigue - for an added benefit. Make a night out of it with your partner or loved one. Who knows? Your massage time might even become a nightly, if not weekly, ritual. The best part? Giving a massage to someone makes that person more likely to return the favour.