I’ve been coming home late this week because it is a crazy busy time at work. Even though I arrive home exhausted it takes a lot of winding down before I’m able to relax and finally drift off to sleep.
One method of winding down is better than others, in my experience, and it’s not what you might think.
If you were going to guess reading a book or watching a movie, you’d be wrong. I still love to do these activities, but they are far more enjoyable when I’m already relaxed.
When I’m keyed up, there’s nothing like … a good puzzle.
Yes, that’s right. A good puzzle. I first noticed this when I was pregnant. I was under strict orders to keep my blood pressure down. I came up with several techniques (breathing, happy place visualization, for starters). One day I spaced out and played Bejeweled on my cellphone for 20 minutes, all the while feeling placated and happy, then randomly took my blood pressure. I was surprised to see how low it was.
Do you think puzzles are fun?
That’s what a huge bit of the cortex is primed to do — to spot [patterns] — and once we spot them we can assimilate them into our pyramid of knowledge and build more layers of strategy, and knowing how to do that makes us incredibly successful at controlling the world.
— Neuroscientist Daniel Bor
That’s exactly what I felt after playing Bejeweled: in control. Feeling in control when you are “worrying for two” or your busy life is stuffed to the gills is an impressive feat indeed.
Here are three super easy ways I solve puzzles or spot patterns before going to sleep. Give them a try, and you’re bound to sleep well.
1. Games on cellphone
Not all games are created equal. Search for one that is fairly repetitive, one you can do almost subconsciously. I downloaded some crazy game a few weeks ago with a fast-paced bouncing ball that made me ridiculously tense. I was gritting my teeth. So yeah, don’t play a game that makes you do that. For me, I chill with Tetris, 2048, Two Dots and of course Bejeweled — that’s where it’s at.
2. Drawing patterns
I’ve started keeping an art journal again, and it’s come in handy for me doodle patterns at the end of the day. I caught myself breathing a sigh of relief. Stream of consciousness again. Start with a checkerboard or concentric circles. Keep adding to your design. When you’ve filled the page, go inside the pattern and create micro patterns. It’s cathartic and relaxing, I promise.
3. Pinterest sorting
This might be the most controversial of my methods because I’ve heard of people becoming overwhelmed by Pinterest, even agitated. If that’s you, maybe skip this one. For me, I like to sort, and I find it relaxing and inspiring. The easiest way is to scroll through your feed and find pins that interest you. Repin them to one of your corresponding boards (after checking that the link is valid). Another way is to create a new board, do a search for items to put in that board and start curating. Yet another way is to open up one of your boards with a lot of items and look for patterns. Do you have a Home board with 1,000 pins? Why not glean the kitchen images and create a Kitchen board for them?
What is your perfect relaxation tool? Does it involve puzzles or patterns? Share in the comments!