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What’s the secret to truly having a break from it all? How can we get real respite from work, routine and the humdrum of daily life? Maybe plonking ourselves on a sunlounger isn’t the only way to spend a sunny afternoon. Anita Chaudhuri investigates what a more creative summer might look like…

There is something about summer that makes us shift gear, slow down and literally smell the roses as we meander to and from work at a more leisurely pace than when grey skies prevail. Lighter mornings inspire us to relish getting out of our beds earlier and balmy evenings magically expand time.

Instead of crumpling in front of The Good Wife, soaking in a bath and falling into bed, there is a sense of freedom and possibility about these precious free hours. There is a feeling of mental spaciousness that goes along with the physical release of throwing open windows and doors and letting in the light. We might even take time off from work, a week or two completely to ourselves, to reward, regenerate and just switch off.

One way we can enhance our ability to switch off is by exploring small acts of creativity. Years ago, I found myself stuck at an airport waiting for a delayed flight. A Japanese businessman sat next to me. Unlike the fractious, fidgety rabble around us, he exuded an air of serenity. I watched transfixed as he began laying out jewel-coloured papers. He chose one and, with rapt focus, began to make dozens of deft folds. Finally, with a smile, he handed me a beautiful emerald paper bird and generously offered to teach me to make one of my own. Instead of a stressful two hours in an airport, I got lost in origami, and learned how immersing myself in a seemingly tiny act of creativity can help transcend the most trying or tedious of circumstances.

Research backs up my discovery. A study* at San Francisco State University revealed that people involved in creative activities outside of their work not only dealt better with stress, their performance in their jobs improved, too. So, there are good reasons for exploring your creative side that go way beyond producing a masterpiece or making a living from it.

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Psychologies August 2016 - Switch Off Slow Down