Time to slow down for the summer
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” – John Lubbock
What springs to mind for you when you think of July?
If you are American it could well be independence, fireworks and celebration. If you are a student or an educator, quite possibly it’s the beginning of the holidays and the start of freedom for 6 glorious weeks. For some it’s bees, flowers or festivals.
If you think of hot humid days and evenings forcing you to sloooooow down, then you’re with me on this one. This month I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the importance of slowing down, resting and taking it easy.
What’s the rush?
I often have conversations with people who feel guilty that they aren’t doing enough. Sometimes they are recovering from surgery or in the middle of treatment, sometimes they are suffering with fatigue, sometimes they find situations and tasks overwhelming. Often people find that they simply aren’t able to attend to all of the tasks and jobs that they once performed pre-diagnosis. Whatever the reason, and the reasons do vary, there is usually one constant theme, and that is one of guilt.
Why do we feel guilty?
It feels like our society really values busy-ness and always being on the go go go. ‘I’m so busy!‘ possibly equates in some people’s minds to ‘I’m important!‘ or ‘I’m needed!‘, offering validation and affirming status or purpose. Ask someone how they are and ‘I’m fine, I’m just really busy‘ is often the response, seemingly declared as a badge of honour.
Of course all of this is absolutely fine, but it does cause a problem if as a result of this, taking rest becomes perceived as a luxury, and people feel guilty for slowing down.
The case for rest
We accept that sleep is important for our health, and I would suggest that we need to start considering rest in the same way. Taking time to slow down and rest isn’t in any way a luxury, it’s also really important for our well-being. Rest is essential for healing our bodies when we have been ill, as we cannot achieve homeostasis when not rested. It also reduces stress, which has been shown to have a negative effect on our immune systems. Resting also improves productivity, creativity and decision making, as our brains can fatigue just like any muscle will do without rest. Being more rested can also improve our overall mood, which is a positive factor for our relationships with others.
The 10 most restful activities
A 2016 large scale international study The Rest Test surveyed 18,000 people’s attitudes to rest, and reported on the top 10 most useful activities for rest. These were:
1. Reading – 58% of people said that they find reading to be restful. People who scored high on a scale which measured whether they felt they were flourishing in life were even more likely to choose reading.
2. Being outside in nature – see my recent article about this for more information on the health benefits of the great outdoors.
3. Being on your own – even extroverts in this study rated being on their own as more restful than being with other people.
4. Listening to music – this was more popular with younger people in this study, but still ranked highly.
5. Doing nothing in particular – every age group in the study rated this highly apart from the 31- to 45-year-olds. However some people said they find it hard to do nothing and the thought of it made them feel guilty or stressed.
6. Walking – for some this is a perfect restful activity but understandably for others it is a huge challenge.
7. Having a bath or shower – interestingly this seems to get less popular with age as was chosen by far less people over 60. Perhaps this is due to the effort sometimes required for these activities.
8. Daydreaming – this is an interesting one as a tendency to overthink can be associated with depression. Clearly though for many, it is a valuable tool to achieve rest.
9. Watching TV – more women than men chose this one and more young people than older people, but it came way behind reading in every age group.
10. Practicing mediation or mindfulness – come along to one of our online Calmness and Connectivity sessions to practice relaxation in this way, or why not take a look at apps such as headspace.
What will you do this month to try to build rest into your days?