Why we need more rest
Updated: Dec 21, 2019
How much time do you spend resting each day?
The modern world seems to demand that we’re always on, always doing, always connected. Society is all about productivity, and being ‘busy’ has become almost like a badge of honour. It’s considered a good thing to have lots going on and no time to rest, but this busyness can drain us physically, mentally and emotionally.
In fact, stress has been called the the health epidemic of the 21st Century by the World Health Organisation, and 80-90% of GP appointments nowadays are stress-related (here's a great conversation around stress with GP and author Dr Chatterjee). To me, statistics like this show just how extreme our busy lifestyles have become, and now necessary it is to press the pause button and slow down.
We have to remember that our brains are muscles, not machines. They can’t keep working without a break forever - just like our bodies, our brains also need rest in order to function. In the same way that batteries need to recharge before they’re used again, so do we.
Though it can seem counterintuitive to do less when your to-do list is long, taking time out to rest can actually make you more productive, not to mention happier, healthier and more energetic. Rest also boosts our creativity, making space for creative thinking that just isn’t possible when we’re frantically rushing from one thing to the next.
In scientific terms, rest helps to shift us from our sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight response) to our parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation response). Our breathing slows down, our blood pressure and heart rate lower, and our digestive functioning returns to normal.
Because we’ve become so used to always being busy, many of us are further removed from our natural tendency to rest than we used to be. But there are lots of simple ways to integrate rest into your lifestyle. All we need to do to is make space for it.
Here are some ideas for you to consider:
Write in a journal
Go for a walk in nature without your phone or headphones
Turn off the radio in your car
Listen to a guided meditation
Read a book for pleasure
Look out the window
Mindfully drink a cup of tea/coffee
Focus on your breathing for a few minutes
Turn off technology at least 1 hour before you sleep
Sit and do absolutely nothing for 10 minutes
Take a nap
I recently came across the Italian phrase ‘il dolce far niente’, which means ‘the sweetness of doing nothing’. The idea of living more intuitively, resting when we feel we need it and enjoying the moment. Just imagine what your quality of life would be like if you made time to experience this throughout the day?
What if your day-to-day life was a little less governed by things you feel you ‘should’ do, and more influenced by your own personal needs? There’s nothing wrong with caring about our work and external commitments, but I do believe balancing these parts of our lives with rest and play is vital.
Mindfulness is another powerful tool for tuning into the present moment, doing less and being more. It's so simple to practice, and you can incorporate it into your lifestyle in many ways. Check out my three simple ways to be more mindful for some inspiration.
The more we incorporate rest and quiet into our lives, the more second-nature it will become. And the better we get at shifting out of that unhealthy stress state, the more calm and relaxed we’ll feel day-to-day, allowing us to be happier, healthier and more productive. So maybe… in order to do more, we need to get comfortable with doing less.