Whenever life starts to feel overwhelmingly hectic, our first instinct is often to do anything but rest.
Most of us try to work even harder or plan our weekends full of activities.
The art of rest is something we all have to learn.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the renowned Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, said it best in his book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching:
“When we humans get sick, we just worry! We look for doctors and medicine, but we don’t stop. Even when we go to the beach or the mountains for a vacation, we don’t rest, and we come back more tired than before. We have to learn to rest.”
Taking time out for healing and renewal is important not only for the body but also for the mind. Rest — in whatever form it takes — is an art that can help to restore energy, sharpen our insight and bring a greater level of balance into our lives.
Rest helps us to recharge our batteries so that we can make the most of our lives. Research shows it can also help to reduce stress levels and fatigue, improve cognitive abilities, and increase focus.1Source: Nature Neuroscience
Rest is essential for physical and mental well-being. That’s why Thich Nhat Hanh warned us to take rest seriously:
“Stopping, calming, and resting are preconditions for healing. If we cannot stop, the course of our destruction will just continue.”
Calming our own minds and bodies allows us to open up to the healing process, which gives us true tranquility. Here are some ways to make rest more accessible to you.
Tips for getting good quality rest
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is essential for physical and mental recovery, so make sure you get enough quality sleep each night. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted rest in a dark room with no loud noises or bright lights. Stick to a regular bedtime routine as this helps to maintain healthy sleep habits like falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.
- Set boundaries. Allow yourself time each day away from work, family responsibilities, or other commitments that can cause stress and pressure. This could be as little as half an hour dedicated specifically to yourself – no phones or other devices allowed. Create boundaries around this time so that you can honestly relax without feeling guilty about being “unproductive.”
- Take breaks throughout the day. Even when we have busy schedules, it’s important to take mini breaks throughout the day in order to destress and refuel with energy. Take five-minute breathers when you’re feeling overwhelmed or fatigued – go outside for a walk, stretch out, or have a cup of tea – all these activities will help you relax and rejuvenate.
- Beat negative thinking patterns. Negative thoughts can sap energy levels quickly, so it’s important to challenge any unhelpful thinking patterns with positive ones (e.g., “I’m not good enough” could be countered with “I’ve achieved many things already in my life”). Self-compassion can also go a long way here; if you find yourself having particularly difficult thoughts, instead of focusing on them try sending yourself support instead.
- Move your body daily. Moving your body doesn’t necessarily mean going all out at the gym every day (especially if you’re feeling exhausted). Rather it’s about finding ways to move gently that feel good such as walking in nature, participating in gentle yoga classes, or even just dancing around your living room (I know someone who does this almost every day). Any type of movement that boosts your mood (and doesn’t exhaust you) counts as rest.
Prioritizing rest is an essential component of living a happy and peaceful life. In our busy lives, it’s all too easy to succumb to the pressures around us and forget the importance of stepping back and allowing ourselves time to recharge.
Remember that every moment is a new chance to live better. If you feel like you didn’t prioritize rest in the past, start making a change.
That doesn’t mean you have to stop chasing your goals and being ambitious. Keep striving for excellence. And remember that rest is not just a luxury, but a natural part of living a good life.