August 15 marks National Relaxation Day. Yes, National Lazy Day was only five day ago, but this is a different holiday. Today is the day we get to celebrate relaxing.
Unfortunately, like National Lazy Day, it’s in the middle of the week. But you can still use National Relaxation Day as an excuse to enjoy your lunch break even more.
Here’s a look at the history of National Relaxation Day.
1. National Relaxation Day Was Created by a 9-Year-Old Boy in Michigan in 1985
Unlike many of these daily holidays, National Relaxation Day surprisingly has a well-documented history. In the August 15, 1985 issue of the Des Moines Register, nine-year-old Sean Moeller declared August 15 as National Relaxation Day.
“People don’t think enough about relaxing,” Moeller of Clio, Michigan told the paper. “They think too much about working, and that’s not good because if you work too hard, then you can get a fever or get run-down and maybe even get sick.”
When asked if he had any work to do, Moeller told the Register, “I mean, no, I don’t really work. Well, I help with the dishes and cut down weeds and water the plants. And I ride my bike a lot. See, kids get tired from, you know, being hot and everything.”
2. Reducing Stress Could Help Keep Your Heart Healthy
Relaxing and reducing stress can be healthy for you, various studies have found. The American Heart Association reports that more research is needed, but managing your stress can help.
“When stress is excessive, it can contribute to everything from high blood pressure, also called hypertension, to asthma to ulcers to irritable bowel syndrome,” Ernesto L. Schiffrin, M.D., Ph.D, told the American Heart Association.
WebMD notes that stress can increase heart rate and blood lfow, which causes cholesterol and triglycerides to flow into the bloodstream. “It’s also possible that stress is related to other problems — an increased likelihood of smoking or obesity — that indirectly increase the heart risks,” the site notes.
Doctors have learned that sudden emotional stress can lead to a heart attack or another serious cardiac problem. “People who have chronic heart problems need to avoid acute stress — and learn how to successfully manage life’s unavoidable stresses — as much as they can,” WebMD notes.
“Stress doesn’t only make us feel awful emotionally,” Jay Winner, MD, director of the Stress Management Program for Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, California, told WebMD. “It can also exacerbate just about any health condition you can think of.”
3. A 2003 Study Showed That Stress Could Impact a Woman’s Chances for Breast Cancer
Researchers have also looked into the possible effects stress can have on cancer. A 2003 study from Sweden found that being under stress could double a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. The study was based on research of 1,400 women beginning in the late 1960s. However, the physician who worked on that study stressed that it was a very small sample size. Another doctor told WebMD that other similar studies showed different results.
The National Cancer Institute points out that the evidence that psychological stress causes cancer is weak. “Some studies have indicated a link between various psychological factors and an increased risk of developing cancer, but others have not,” the institute notes.
4. Relaxation Exercises Can Help You Fall Asleep
Relaxing also helps you fall asleep. The National Sleep Foundation notes that there are several relaxation exercises you can use if you’re having trouble sleeping.
One technique is the “breathing exercise.” From the National Sleep Foundation:
Close your eyes and notice your breathing. Turn all your attention to your natural breathing pattern and feel the air enter and leave your nose or mouth. Visualize the flow of air as it passes through your mouth, airways, down into your belly, and back out again. Survey your body for any tension, and as you exhale, feel the tension leave that part of your body. Visualize your breath reaching your forehead, your neck, your shoulders, your arms… and then releasing the tension as you exhale. If your mind wanders to another worry or thought, let it go and gently redirect your attention back to your breath.
“Guided imagery,” where you let an image or story in your head take your mind off the stress that’s keeping you awake, is another good technique. The National Sleep Foundation also suggests you turn off your electronics and don’t sleep facing your clock. Another suggestion is getting out of bed, doing something else relaxing for a bit and then go back to bed when you feel tired.
5. Reducing Stress Can Help You With a Cold
If you’re stuck with a cold on National Relaxation Day, you’re in luck. Relaxing is reportedly found to help you with a cold. In 2011, ABC News reported that the soothing “environmental music” you might listen to while relaxing can help your cold.
ABC News notes that a Wilkes University study found that listening to 30 minutes of the soothing music will help the “immune system’s production of illness-fighting proteins, immunoglobulin A (IgA).”
A 2012 Carnegie Mellon University study also looked at how stress “wreaks havoc” on the body. The researchers found that chronic psychological stress can hurt the body’s ability to “regulate the inflammatory response.”
“Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol and when cortisol is not allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control,” Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty Professor of Psychology within CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, told Science Daily.