Relaxation Day and the world’s most relaxing room

Feeling a bit rushed and stressed out? Modern life getting the better of you? Then today is especially for you – August 15th is Relaxation Day.

Chilling out on Relaxation Day.
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Some years ago, researchers at the University of Hertfordshire’s Health and Human Sciences Research Institute, led by Professor Richard Wiseman, did a study examining walking speeds around the world, and found that people’s lives are becoming ever more stressful and hurried. I am sure that comes as no surprise to anyone – we are all way too familiar with the stresses of modern life, with its ever increasing responsibilities, information overload, and the like. Less and less time for sauntering, it seems.

Anyway, what is interesting about this story is what Professor Wiseman and his team did next – they went on to develop what they consider to be, scientifically speaking, the world’s most relaxing room.

Opened to the public at a 2008 Showcase held by the University of Hertfordshire, the room consisted of soft matting on which you could lie back, with your head resting on a lavender-scented pillow. The room was furthermore bathed in ‘calming glade-like green light’, with a ‘completely clear artificial blue sky’ overhead. A specifically composed soundtrack was played – ‘music with a slow and distinct rhythm, low frequency notes, and no sudden changes in tempo’, also featuring a solo soprano voice, ‘chosen for the soothing properties of the human voice’, a ‘Tibetan singing bowl, used in meditation’ and a string ensemble.

All the features in the room were specifically selected based on scientific knowledge related to stress and relaxation. A subdued green light, for example, is supposed to enhance the production of dopamine in the brain, which has a calming effect, and the completely clear blue sky creates a ‘mild sense of sensory deprivation’ that helps you turn your attention inward and away from daily stresses.

Interesting concept, but to be honest, my idea of the ultimate relaxation space would rather be a grassy hill in the mountains, where I can lie back, out of cellphone contact, with cloudy skies overhead and no sounds other than a stream trickling in the background and the occasional bird chirping. And if this moment can happen after a day of hard walking or running in the mountains, even better. I bet it will beat the world’s most relaxing room any day…

Bliss… And very necessary!  I think I need to start planning that getaway weekend pronto.

I am curious – what would your ‘ultimate relaxation space’ look like?

Getting some sand between your toes on Play In The Sand Day

Today, August 11 is Play In The Sand Day.

If you have kids, or simply want to get in touch with your inner child, grabbing a pail and shovel and spending some quality time in a sandpit may not be a bad idea. Or even better, take a trip to your nearest beach and have a go at nature’s own giant sand pit – just watch out for Physalia utriculus, those innocent looking little bubbly blue organisms (aka ‘blue bottles’) that can spoil your sandy fun with a nasty, burning sting.

Of course playing in the sand is not all fun and games – it can be a serious artistic endeavour.  Sand sculpting has become a well-organised international creative activity – just look at some of these mindblowing examples.

OK, so maybe you’re not quite in the mood for sand castles, and simply need some me-time to chill out and get quiet for a while. Well, then some playing in the sand may still be your solution – you just need to define it a little differently.

Exploring shipwrecks on a sandy beach – another way of playing in the sand.
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Whether it’s a long, lazy walk along a sandy beach, a day exploring shipwrecks half-buried in the sand, or an afternoon spent on hands and knees, nose almost in the sand, studying your local coastal fauna and flora, whatever rocks your world, it’s all good.

However you manage to get away from it all and get some sand between your toes, I hope you have a great, relaxing Saturday.