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The Renaissance of Rest

Discover the importance of slowing down

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When is the last time you truly rested? Maybe it was on summer vacation, sitting on a dock after dinner, dipping your toes in the lake. Or maybe it was in the winter, curled up on the couch with a great book as the snow fell quietly outside.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t make time for real rest in our everyday lives, even though it’s so important for our well-being. As the year draws to a close and a new one is set to begin, let’s recommit to rest.

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Why should we rest?

Elite-level athletes understand the importance of strategic rest and recovery. This designated time allows their bodies—as well as their minds—to repair. But what about the rest of us “regular people”? It turns out that taking time to rest is important for everyone.

Rest, in this context, doesn’t just mean sleep. While sleep is certainly necessary, the concept of rest extends far beyond our nightly shut-eye. According to registered clinical counsellor Laura Henderson, rest refers to the act of giving our bodies and minds a break from constant stimuli. “Our society’s ‘hustle culture’ doesn’t value rest,” Henderson explains, “but rest is essential to mental health.”

By resting, we can focus on our inner selves, tapping into our emotions, our hopes and dreams, and even our imagination. We can also reduce stress and help prevent burnout. Regular rest is thought to help us

·         heal our bodies

·         reduce stress and feel calmer

·         be more productive and more creative

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Types of rest

According to author, physician, and researcher Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, people need seven types of rest to help recover from spending energy in seven key ways.

Type of rest

Example

physical rest

either passive, such as sleeping, or active, such as massage therapy

mental rest

taking small breaks in your workday

sensory rest

taking breaks from screen time

creative rest

experiencing art or nature

emotional rest

includes everything from setting boundaries to expressing your emotions

social rest

focusing on relationships that lift you up

spiritual rest

finding belonging and purpose in your life

Taking some time to contemplate each of these types of rest in our own lives can help us uncover gaps and come up with an action plan. To start, it could be as simple as taking 10 minutes to savour a cup of tea every morning without any screens or distractions or committing to a daily after-dinner neighbourhood stroll.

Another example is to adopt the “walk, window, water” tactic at work, explains Henderson. That means taking a strategic break every hour or 90 minutes in which you get up and walk to a window, gaze far into the distance (preferably at something in nature, such as a tree), and have a sip of water. This can give our busy minds a moment to calm down.

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Your own personal recipe for rest

It’s important to remember that our need for rest is highly individual. To find truly restful activities for <you>, Henderson suggests checking in with your body and how you’re feeling as you go through your day. For example, you might find baking meditative … or you might find it stressful. You may love jigsaw puzzles … or you may find them boring.

Our need for rest is also prone to change throughout our lives. If you’re a parent of young children, you may find that you crave some time alone or with your partner to recharge and reflect away from your kids. If you’re an introvert with a high-pressure career, you may find that you need extra rest after networking events.

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Give yourself permission

Rest is supposed to be, well, restful, right? Ironically, though, rest can be difficult in practice. Rest may bring up feelings of guilt, or make us worried that we’re lazy, explains Henderson. It may help to remind yourself that rest is important for healing, productivity, and creativity. Speaking to a therapist may also help.

No matter who we are or how our lives unfold, rest can help us. Together, let’s reflect, recharge, and recommit to rest.

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Restful hobbies

Sure, watching TV can be relaxing. But let’s kick things up a notch with hobbies that can be health-promoting, meditative, and restorative. Consider trying one of these activities.

Indoor activities

·         painting, sketching, or colouring (there are even colouring books for adults)

·         knitting, crocheting, or other fibre arts

·         jigsaw puzzles

·         listening to music

·         calligraphy

·         pottery

·         baking or cooking

·         reading

Outdoor activities

·         gardening

·         fishing

·         hiking or walking

·         birdwatching

·         stargazing

Exercise

·         yoga, tai chi, or meditation

·         running or jogging

·         dance

·         golfing

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Proactive rest in the workplace

Even workplaces are harnessing the power of rest. Many progressive workplaces are embracing “proactive rest” to help increase productivity, reduce the risk of burnout, boost creativity and problem-solving skills, and improve employees’ quality of life.

Within a workplace setting, proactive rest can look like the following:

·         encouraging active breaks throughout the day

·         advocating for work-life balance

·         enabling flexible working arrangements

·         providing resources for self-care and stress reduction

·         offering wellness programs

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Rest and sleep

Rest should make up 42 percent of our day, according to recent research. That works out to be approximately 10 hours. When you factor in sleeping, it’s about two hours of awake time that we need to rest, explains Henderson.

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Emotional rest

This type of rest includes being authentic to our true selves. Henderson encourages us to identify our emotions without judgment. She suggests imagining our thoughts as boats that we watch pass by.

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The parasympathetic nervous system 

Known as the “rest and digest” system (in contrast to the famous “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system), our parasympathetic nervous system decreases our heart rate, stimulates digestion, and inhibits the production of adrenalin when we’re relaxed.

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A simple mindfulness exercise

Mindfulness exercises allow us to fully immerse ourselves in the moment, helping us relax. One exercise involves awareness of our senses. Try to notice three things you can hear, three things you can see, and three things you can feel—slowly, one sense at a time.

This article was originally published in the November 2023 issue of alive magazine.

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