Let’s talk about rest, baby!

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Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash


Back to guilt-free relaxation

Do you sometimes wake up and don’t want to get out of bed? 
Do you feel empty? 
Like you cannot enjoy anything? 
Like you don’t care much about your work anymore? 
And you don’t really want to talk to anyone? 

At the same time, you might think your life is actually pretty great and you cannot pinpoint what the problem is:
You have had amazing experiences over the past year, you and your family are happy and healthy, you were meeting a bunch of interesting people. 
You’re jumping from one thing to the other. You even manage to hit the gym on a regular basis.
There is a bunch of new things here and there but ultimately nothing gives you much of the excitement and motivation you used to feel…
Andrew Wilkinson describes this in one of his latest threads on Twitter, which you can read here: https://twitter.com/awilkinson/status/1445749683003949068?s=20

And while he goes on about how he imposed a sabbatical on himself for 30 days and what he went through to “reset” himself, and get away from his addiction to all the stimuli in his life…

I believe what he lost earlier was his ability to relax. 

And even, if you think that this is not really you, take a moment to consider how you think about doing nothing:
Is doing nothing okay for you? Or do you feel the need to be busy?
Do you need to do something to feel valuable? 
Do you feel the need to fill your weekend to meet with friends around the clock, do lots of workouts, or being productive in any other sense? 

Can you sit down, read for fun, or do some walking outside by yourself and truly enjoy it? Do you feel better afterward?
Because, this is how relaxation can be defined: “intentional, temporary, restorative, relaxing and you feel better afterward.”

Claudia Hammond, a British author and radio presenter with the BBC partnered with Hubbub in a large-scale “Rest Test” to figure out what people consider relaxing. They conducted the “Rest Test” in 135 countries and surveyed 18,000 people.

Let’s look at what she and the team learned from the study:

The things that relax us most are things we tend to do by ourselves: reading, having a bath, listening to music. It’s the stuff that doesn’t take up much mental capacity (compared to talking to someone). Typically rest means also rest from other people. If we are alone, we can focus on ourselves and do not have to consider the needs of others.

Rest can mean something different to you than it means for me. For some, it might mean meditation, while others find sitting along with their thoughts stressful. For me, cooking or baking can mean rest while you enjoy gardening or running. You will need to find out for yourself what makes you feel rested. Here’s what activities participants of the study found most restful:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK453237/table/ch8.t2/?report=objectonly

 

Rest can be brief but should be done consciously. A small break in your day can make a difference. Take a conscious moment to stretch. Do some deep breathing and see how it calms you down. Even a tiny piece of rest time can help you to recharge your mental energy and make you feel better. Rest is needed for retaining memory and makes you more productive in the end. This is why taking a break before a big deadline can increase the quality of your result. Watching TV — if not overdone — can also count as rest time. It’s also one of the few activities that can be shared with others as there is no need to engage actively.

Building a habit of rest can be difficult. As we learned to reward ourselves and others for being (or seeming) busy it might feel counterintuitive to rest. 
If you are one of those people who have a hard time being still, try what Hammond describes as “awe-walks”. 
The awe-walk can happen in any environment: nature, urban, a street in your neighborhood. The idea is to walk and look around for something that strikes awe in you, this child-like wonder. It can be colored leaves at a tree that you find beautiful, wondering how someone created such an impressive building, nicely shaped clouds. Basically, anything that takes the perspective away from you towards the rest of the world.

Finally, reading ranked number one of restful activities in Hammond’s study. Reading helps us to immerse ourselves in the stories of other people — and takes us away from our own daily hassles. It can suck us into a whole different world and provide a break from ruminating over the same problems.

Rest is all about giving yourself permission to escape reality — even if it’s just for a tiny moment. It is intentional relaxation without feeling guilty.
Something a lot of us have lost along the way and what we need to reclaim for a happier, healthier life with more motivation and joy. 

So next time, you talk to someone instead of taking turns in “humble bragging” about being busy, maybe ask: And what’s your favorite thing to do to rest?

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