Rest is best. When I was growing up and whenever I was sick, my mother used to always say this, while ushering me off to bed or onto the sofa with a blanket and a glass of water. Rest is best.
But… what is rest?
In November 2015, a group of researchers, the medical foundation The Wellcome Trust, and the BBC launched a comprehensive study into rest. In particular, they sought to find out how rest affects health and well being, what people do to rest, and if there are differences between attitudes and activities across the world.
Over 18,000 people from 134 countries completed the subjective survey, and the results of the rest test, as well as comprehensive research into the subject, were published at the end of 2016.
The Rest Top 10
- Being in the natural environment
- Being on your own
- Listening to music
- Doing nothing in particular
- Having a bath, or taking a shower
- Watching TV
- Meditating or practicing mindfulness
Good health is not only about making sure to get enough exercise in our lives, and it is not only about making sure we eat well. It is about making sure that we get enough sleep and rest. Enough rest and relaxation helps the body to fight infection, stave off chronic disease, and can put us in a better mood.
According to Dr. Rubin Naiman, the clinical sleep and dream specialist at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, there is a big difference between relaxation and recreation.
Think about it. Of the list above, which of these activities are RELAXING? Which of these enable our minds AND bodies to switch off, to create the conditions for healing and regeneration?
According to Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School, activities that trigger the relaxation response – which CAUSE relaxation by turning off the “fight or flight” system and therefore reduce stress – CAUSE and PROMOTE healing in the body.
If we get it right, relaxation can TURN OFF negative genes. Or to put it another way, if we can figure out how to tap into true relaxation, we can use relaxation as another tool to make ourselves healthy. On equal footing with food and exercise.
How do we tap into the relaxation sweet spot? Some simple suggestions from Dr. Deanna Minich, an expert in lifestyle medicine, include aromatherapy, art, journaling, tai chi, yoga, and music (to name just a few).
Rest Is Medicine
So with all this in mind… Clearly rest is a hot topic, but rest is not what we do for fun. It is how we turn off stress. And by turning off our stress and relaxing our mind AND body, we can create the foundations for health.
Are you into recreation or relaxation? What steps are you going to take to relax more?