I try to practice what I preach. And so, as I am currently on vacation, today’s segment is on the importance of leisure for mental health.
Indeed, leisure activity does not command the respect that it deserves.
Unfortunately, for too many people, leisure’s health benefits are neither appreciated nor understood. Too many think of vacationing time as an unnecessary luxury or, worse, as wasting time. Think leisure is a waste? That may not bode well for your mental health — ScienceDaily
Today I want to debunk some of the myths concerning leisure and explain why leisure activity is so essential for brain health and emotional well-being.
WHAT IS LEISURE ?
What is the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear the word leisure ? Slow paced as in leisurely ; luxury as in a life of leisure ; non-productive as in not working ? While some think of leisure as lying in the sand on a tropical beach, I want us to think of leisure more broadly as non-demand activity for the brain.
So, any activity which is regarded as relaxing or fun is also brain healing leisure. Besides the beach, music, dancing, hobbies, learning new skills which are pleasing and or physically challenging help the brain to heal and stay in tip top shape.
WHY SO MANY ARE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH LEISURE
There is something about American culture which is uncomfortable with pleasure and leisure, Although much has changed in our culture since Christian separatists came to our land, it seems that the Protestant work ethic still dominates societal values. Even though much of the necessity for hard work has been alleviated by technology and automation, the haunting fear that “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. ” (Proverbs 16:27) continues to drive America’s fundamental mistrust of feeling good and kicking back. Perhaps the animus rests on a linguistic mix-up. Idleness, which is an absence of meaningful purpose or work has been confused with leisure, which is a legitimate emotional/physical need to rest and renew.
SOME BASIC BRAIN SCIENCE: Why Leisure is important
Most of us know that sleep is important for our physical as well as our mental health and that the brain needs rest in order to recover from the normal stress of everyday life. What neurological research has discovered in recent years is that the brain requires , in addition to unconscious sleep, conscious non-demand activity to fix neuropathways which have been broken by stress.
Non-demand activity can be many things. One form of leisure is inactivity and things like lying on a beach. But leisure need not be inactive. Brain damage occurs when the brain has to deal with too many demands, obligations, problems or threats. Any activity which does not stress neuro-pathways provides rest in which repair of broken neuropathways can occur. Understanding Leisure as an Essential Part of Self-Care | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)
The point of our discussion today is to raise awareness about the importance of rest and recreation. Science has shown that leisure is a necessary part of sustaining a healthy mind. It’s funny that most of us understand the necessity of providing regular maintenance to keep our machines and equipment in tip top shape but we often take our bodies, especially our brains, for granted as if they did not need regular care or upkeep. In fact, taking time for leisure is not a luxury but a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle which will ensure better mental health for a lifetime.
The Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC 3 1 2022
image attribution and acknowledgement : 901,745 Leisure Day Photos – Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos from Dreamstime