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The Best Places to Relax in Any City (Other Than the Spa)

Did you know? National Relaxation Day is an internationally celebrated annual event, held every August 15th. The day was first founded in 1985, by an American fourth-grader, Sean Moeller. The intention is simple — to take a day off for yourself to refresh and rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit.

Most of us live in a fast-paced, constant state of ‘doing’, but as the founder of this day suggests, it is important to find ways to relax and unwind from a busy lifestyle. So, in honour of National Relaxation Day, take a moment for yourself and explore the following places to let your hair down:

The park

With dozens of shades of green, fresh air, and a sense of expansion, parks top the list in terms of being ideal places for relaxation. Research has shown time and time again that there is a strong link between nature therapy and a decrease in physiological stress and immune function levels — because of our evolutionary history, it is thought that we are essentially adaptive to nature.

A recent study supports this, and shows that these stress-relieving benefits can easily be achieved in as little as 10-minutes. If you live in a concrete jungle, opt to take a stroll through the nearest park or spend a lazy afternoon picnicking with friends and family for the ultimate rejuvenation.

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Some of the biggest cities in the world also feature the most stunning pockets of green —  from Hyde Park in London to Central Park in New York City. Indulge in an urban oasis — your body will thank you for it.

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The beach

If parks are not your thing, the beach is a fantastic alternative for outdoors relaxation. There’s a reason tropical vacations are in vogue — the mere visualisation of aquamarine waters and powder soft beaches can have a calming effect on the body.

Because beaches are often not centrally located, they’re best for the days you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. With no shortage of relaxation activities — ranging from getting that Vitamin D with friends to swimming and walking along the beachfront — it is easy to spend a whole day at this invigorating location.

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While the Mediterranean cities in Europe (think Spain and Portugal) offer some of the coolest beaches in the world, Singapore comes a close second. Check out Sentosa Island in Singapore, for some of the island’s prettiest beaches.

The museum

Beyond being educational institutions of the arts, museums are also restorative sanctuaries of the mind and body. The beneficial effects of art on human health and well-being have long been documented, and art therapy is very much a trend.

A fascinating article by Psychology Today makes a strong case for museums as healing places, arguing that museums can provide the same revitalising effect as spending time in nature by offering the same characteristics that enable one to shift mental gears, and refocus attention in a less effortful way. Findings from a 2008 study showed that museum goers have reported benefits like restored attention, tranquility, and reflection, further corroborating the association between museum visits for leisure and stress reduction.

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Home to the Renaissance, Europe is the best continent to visit for some of the most spectacular masterpieces of the world. Other than Le Louvre in France, check out The British Museum in England or The Uffizi Gallery in Italy for national collections that have withstood the test of time.

The library

Given that reading a book can help provide a welcome escape from routine and everyday demands, it makes sense to head to the one place where books are the ‘cells of life’. And in a world filled with distractions and white noise, the library provides a safe haven for those seeking absolute peace and quiet.

Cosy nooks offer the passing traveller comfortable corners to while away the afternoon, while a cornucopia of resources promise to entertain and inform. Individuals will face little difficulty in finding a new world to lose themselves in with columns of books and magazines to choose from. According to a 2009 study conducted by the University of Sussex, reading can reduce up to 68% of stress, and just 6-minutes of reading can reduce your heart rate and improve your overall state of being.

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As with museums, Europe showcases some of the most beautiful libraries in the world due to the rebirth of the literary arts during the Renaissance. Trinity College Old Library in Ireland is one of the most magnificent of the lot, with dark mahogany arches and millions of rare manuscripts collated since 1712.

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A café

Often cosy and well-lit, cafés are great places to chill out in a city, be it for brunch or a mid-day break. For a lazy afternoon, bring along a book to read, or have an intimate setting with a couple of close friends or your date. If you run out of things to do, take up people watching — you’ll find that the conversations and interactions around you can be disarmingly familiar and pretty funny, usually unintentionally.

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Korea and Japan feature some of the quirkiest and most Instagram-worthy cafés in Asia. Settle in with a cup of coffee or tea, and relish in a quiet afternoon amid a comfortable, affable ambience.