No matter how busy your schedule is, making time for rest is vital for your mental health and well-being.
First off, let's get things straight - sleep is different to rest. Sleep is a necessary body function, which we all need to survive. Rest can be difficult to define because it can look different for everyone. Rest is any behaviour aimed at increasing physical or mental well-being. Many of us view rest as throwing ourselves on the couch and binging Netflix or scrolling on TikTok for a few hours. However, a rest day shouldn't just involve you doing 'nothing' and that's where active rest comes in. Active rest allows the brain to relax without going entirely still.
Unlike passive rest, active rest requires some light brain stimulation, which can help you get into a meditative state. Active rest activities include things like walking, knitting, playing music, woodwork, dancing, gardening, drawing, colouring, playing with animals and reading. These activities all allow your brain to quiet a bit and focus on something simple, repetitive, and soothing.
It's important to take ample rest days when it comes to your physical health and workout routine, but it's also extremely important for your emotional and mental health. Like how your muscles need a rest after an intense workout, your brain needs a rest after a mentally taxing day in the office or a period of intense study. Sometimes after an exhausting day, our minds can be too wound up to completely relax and active rest can help soothe our busy brains.
We all have heard of the many benefits of meditation, such as reducing depression and anxiety and increasing productivity amongst other things. Active rest and meditative hobbies are a great solution for people who can't seem to get the hang of meditation and may find it too hard to sit still in a quiet room.
Making time for active rest in your day to day life has many positive benefits.
1) Reduces Stress
The flight-or-fight response was the body's original means of survival many years ago. It allowed our ancestors to protect themselves against wild animals and enemies. However, in the modern world, this response can be experienced numerous times and in various situations which can trigger our stress response.
Resting activates the parasympathetic nervous system—the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system, which is the flight-or-fight response, in turn reducing stress in the body.
2) Boosts Creativity
When you take time away from your daily tasks to actively rest and engage with a soothing activity, it helps to recharge your brain and to refill your creativity reserves. Have you ever found that your creativity is the first thing to go when you are exhausted and overworked? Resting will allow you time to break through creative barriers and reflect on creative solutions.
3) Improves Productivity
Similar to other muscles, your brain is less functional when it's fatigued. You're always more productive after a restful period. Prioritising active rest in your day will allow you to work more efficiently when you get back to it!
4) Increase in Happiness
By making active rest an important part of your day, you are making yourself and your well-being a priority. By choosing to make time for yourself daily, you will soon realise that your overall happiness levels have increased.