These photos of a wintery Hanging Lake along the East Fork of Dead Horse Creek outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, evoke a feeling of tranquility. The undisturbed snowfall along with the abundance of icicles and reflections in the placid, turquoise water convey a sense of stillness—an aspect of winter that greatly appeals to me.
Admittedly, I can do without frigid temperatures, biting wind and a lack of daylight, but I cherish how a good snowfall will slow things down to a halt. The glistening white snow creates an appearance of purity, and the usual cacophony within our surroundings becomes muffled. This hushing effect softens even the sharpest of sounds, which I find more agreeable to the psyche.
Lately, I have grown to appreciate this serenity more than ever.
Life in modern society constantly bombards us with a barrage of stimuli to process, digest and potentially act on. Whether it be notifications from various social media platforms we subscribe to, alerts from the myriad of apps we’ve downloaded to our smart technology, information from radio and television or just interpersonal relations from the people we deal with electronically, over the phone and face to face each day, our brains have become accustomed to a continual stream of data.
Like countless people today, my job requires me to spend most of many days in front of a computer. After work, I usually hit the gym, where, while exercising, I often will occupy myself with various activities on my phone. My evenings, if not writing on the laptop or pc, are typically spent watching sports or television shows (often both at the same time) utilizing the high definition flat screen and/or my tablet. Intermittently, I will check my phone for text messages, emails, sports scores or other bits of knowledge that I seek.
Often, without even realizing it, I spend almost an entire day staring at some sort of screen. Excessive time gazing into electronic devices can actually damage the brain.
However, thankfully, there are also many days that my work schedule takes me outside of the office, which means considerably less time on the computer. Also, typically once a week, I play ice hockey with my beloved Team Rasta Hockey Club. Occasional weeknights and many weekend evenings I attend live music performances. This means that my eyes do get breaks from the harmful blue light.
What about you? Does your job require you to be on a computer all day? How much of your free time is spent on a device or in front of a television? Do you find yourself glued to your phone even at times that it should not command your attention, like when at dinner with friends?
While there are certainly drawbacks to manual labor, if your job requires physicality, you could consider yourself fortunate. If your hobbies or leisure activities consist of time away from technology, score one for you. If you read paperbound books, magazines or the newspaper, thumbs up. If you force daily or even weekly abstinence from devices to thwart a dependence or addiction, way to go!
Best life practices call for a balance when it comes to time spent engaged with the grid and a decent amount of exercise. Whether it be working out at the gym, competing in sports, martial arts or outdoor recreation, all are better for the body than Netflix. Many people find rest and replenishment from disciplines such as yoga and tai chi, while others get grounded and fulfilled by making music, crafts or art.
All of these practices, no doubt, improve our physical and emotional health and well-being. However, they all nevertheless require, to varying degrees, concentration or at least mindfulness.
Do you ever feel like you could use a total time out from the world, something that allows you to really shut down the mind and body?
Here are some suggestions of ways to obtain the relief you seek:
Meditation provides deep relaxation and can lower heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels, lessen stress and anxiety, improve circulation and sleep, lengthen attention spans and enhance memory and self-awareness, promoting happiness and kindness.
While it can be said that mediation implements mindfulness as well, this is only true to a point. Quoting The Spire Wellness Blog, “The main difference between the two practices is that the goal of mindfulness is to focus one’s mind on the present moment—whether that be on your breathing, or some other sensation or thought—while the goal of Transcendental Meditation is to transcend thought completely in order to experience a silent form of consciousness, where you are aware but without an object of thought.”
Massage therapy provides many of the same benefits as meditation, with the addition of promoting the healing of our muscular systems, improving posture and flexibility and strengthening immunity. While massage could be a bit painful if your masseuse has been directed to work out knots or adhesions, if the goal is not necessarily treating an injury but rather achieving relaxation, few things can unwind ourselves like it. Especially when working on the shoulders, neck, cranium and face, you can feel the tension just melting away. A good masseuse can improve your life immensely!
Those that feel squeamish when touched by others may consider floatation in a sensory deprivation tank. Sensory deprivation tanks are lightproof, soundproof (augmented by ear plugs) and filled with 6-12 inches of body temperature water loaded with medical-grade Epsom salts. This allows the body to float effortlessly without the sensation of being wet, warm or cold, undisturbed by sight or sound. Existing in a state of zero gravity while shutting down the flow to our senses provides a unique rest for our bodies and brains.
You may not have a picturesque Hanging Lake easily accessible, but do yourself a favor and make time to experience the beauty of stillness. From time to time, we all need a sedative escape from the chronic assault on our sentience.