When you are stressed or tired or need a break how do you find relaxation and refreshment? Everyone has their own answer. Typically I hear people tell me they like to unwind playing golf, play solitaire on their computers, do the crossword puzzle, play computer games, watch returns. I’ve decided there are two kinds of relaxation activities, distraction and refreshment. Distraction is about replacing something you don’t want to do with something more basic that you can do without thought. It fills in the time without causing you to think or stress. Distraction serves a purpose in that you are not further challenged to meet a deadline or produce some work product.

Refreshment occurs when you put yourself in a place where you are being fed in some way. When you walk in nature, talk with a friend, paint, read a stimulating book, you are not going numb, suspending your brain work. Instead you are feeding yourself with something life-giving.

I see the value in both distraction and refreshment but I think in our current culture there tends to be more of the former than the latter. It is seen as a reward, we’ve worked hard and now we can just sit back and do nothing, be nothing, produce nothing, achieve nothing, and learn nothing. We feel life is a game, a contest, so when we have earned our break we can justify the reward of nothing, we can just lay there and be. There are days when I am beat tired and just sitting there seems right. But that is not about earning something, it is not about a contest, it is just that when you are bone weary just sitting there is all you can muster.

But more and more I find distraction unhelpful, unhealthy and not very healing to my soul. When I return to the land of the living after a distraction I feel just as tired as I was when I was bone weary. The distraction does nothing for me, except make me feel like I have wasted my time. I feel like dead weight, a lump, and there is no bounce to my step.

But absorbing the sun’s rays on a walk, feeling the breeze in my face, hearing the rustle of tree leaves and branches, I feel refreshment and whole. When I absorb nature I feel like my old self has returned, that I am ready to rejoin the dance. After a good conversation, some stirring music, a powerful book, I can sense something inside me is feeling fed and satisfied, like something inside me has been waiting to be attended to.

Too often we miss these soul hunger pains and fill the void we feel with distractions that resemble junk food for the soul. While the distractions stop the frantic pace they do not refresh the spirit.

The next time you feel tired and weary let nature or a friend or a book feed you. Leave the free cell alone.