You might think you know what rest is, but there are a few things your definition may be lacking. Read the full article below to see how to define it for yourself but here are few thoughts:
1. Rest is not watching TV, being on your phone, or hanging out with other people. Rest is quiet time.
2. Rest is a time for lowering your heart rate, looking at nature, breathing mindfully. Rest is slow.
3. Rest is shame-proof. This one is hard to accept, but rest is not something to feel guilty about.
By the definitions above and inside the article, I don’t rest nearly enough. But, it’s on my list of priorities.
The Fantastic Life Rule # 12
Do Nothing in Moderation
If you’re going to rest, then rest. Don’t fill your rest time with distractions or guilty thoughts. Set aside time to truly, deeply, and willfully rest.
By: Sophie Lucido Johnson | Published on June 29, 2022
The longest day of the year has come and gone. Personally, I’m a fan of the winter solstice, because I like to say the sentence, “From here on out, we get a little more light every day until it’s summer.” Now it is summer. We’ve reached the summit, and from here, we begin to mosey back on down.
The days are long and languid. Or, they’re long; and they have the POTENTIAL, in their length, to also adopt an amount of lanuidness. (Languidity? Whatever, spell check doesn’t like either one.) I’ve been giving some thought to the idea of rest. It isn’t something I’ve been doing much of lately, and I’m aware of that partially because at the beginning of the pandemic, I did a fair amount of it, and by extension, I learned what it was. I know that I should have known by then, but I didn’t.
Now, I’m using the word “rest” in a highly specific way.
Here is a list of what “rest,” by this specific definition is not:
- It is not sleeping. Sleeping is sleeping. Yes, technically and scientifically, sleeping is the most fundamental form of physical rest, and that’s great, and people should sleep as much as their bodies want. I’m all about sleep. But we have a word for sleep already, and the word is sleep. I am not talking about sleep.
- It is not meditating or doing yoga. Those are wonderful things, too, and they make SPACE for rest. But they are active, work-centered forms of rest. Don’t get mad at me for using the word “work” and the word “meditation” in the same thought-stream; I’ll reiterate that it’s much easier to rest when you have a solid meditation practice in place. But being with your breathing is an active awake experience, and it’s great — it’s maybe even magical or spiritual!, but it’s not what I’m talking about.
- It is not watching TV or scrolling on or playing games on your phone. Mindless activities in front of screens are what I like to call “being dead while conscious.” These are the most readily available tools that allow us to leave ourselves, which can feel pretty good, or at the very least, pretty necessary. I am not against being dead while conscious. It’s hard to be a human living in a body. Sometimes it helps to be able to leave. I’ve always been a proponent of taking some time off from life from time to time. I might file under this category all the dopamine deliverers that let us choose pleasure over pain in the short-term: drugs, alcohol, eating microwave nachos under the covers, video games, podcasts, sleeves of Oreos. These are all fun things in great moderation, and I’m not hating on them. But I’m not talking about any of them when I say “rest.”
- It is not, for the most part, hanging out with people. There are a few exceptions here, and I’ll get to those later, when I start to talk about what this highly-specific form of “rest” IS. (Maybe I should have started there, you’re right, but we’re too far along on this non-definition track to stop now.) Anything where you have to make a date on a calendar is not the thing I’m talking about. Wonderful, generative, life-affirming, necessary, healthy, human, YES — but rest, no.
- It is not doing little chores on your to-do list that you’ve put off for a while and that are, if you’re being honest, pretty enjoyable. You know: sorting your spices or cleaning the cat hair off the sofa. Things that make your life feel better once they’re done; they scratch an itch; they satisfy something that needs satisfying. Task-doing can be fun, and it can fill an entire weekend day without feeling at all like a waste, but it’s still work. Work is the opposite of rest.
You may be thinking, “You have listed everything fun that there is. I guess you think rest is not fun? I have no idea what could be left.” And you’re right, it’s a narrow little window between work and some of the things on the above list.
Here are some defining qualities of rest:
- Rest is slow. You can’t feel rushed while you’re resting. That doesn’t mean that you can’t rest for an incredibly short period of time; it just means that, if you’re time-limited, you’ll need to have a timer. You cannot be in charge of the time as a resting person. Luckily, we have machines for that.
- Rest is quiet. It’s not noiseless; music is an incredibly important element of rest for many people. But it can’t hurt your ears. You can’t be feeling uncomfortable or suddenly stressed by sounds that are taking up all of the space. Some places to find this kind of quiet: a study with a record player, a kitchen with an open window, a bench near a walking path in the woods. MAYBE a very particular restaurant — one not too full and not totally empty, where you have no worries about being spotted by a person who knows you from the office.
- Rest is soft, or sensual. It’s massaging your own palms with your thumbs, or touching a purring cat, or holding a warm mug of tea, or smelling flowers or coffee beans or cut-up herbs. Rest should softly pleasure the senses, is what I’m saying. More mechanisms for this kind of thing: rocking chairs, candles, lotion, socks from the dryer, honey in hot water, edible things from the garden, a dog or a pet rabbit or goat, a brand new sweatshirt so the inside is super-soft and not pilled at all, scalp-massaging brushes, stones that fit exactly in your hand, a brook or a lake or a bayou for your feet to go in when it’s hot out.
- Rest is shame-proof. This is the most vital thing. You can’t feel guilt or shame while you’re resting. It is the state of feeling GOOD. And in truth, there are not many people in your life who can coexist with you while you’re resting. Maybe your partner, your sister, your mom, or a friend who has known you a long time. The litmus test for the kind of person you can rest near is whether you (A) are perfectly comfortable in long silences together; and (B) can talk for hours and hours without ever thinking, “OK, what am I going to say next?”
These long, languid-able days have a few extra daylight hours to squeeze in some rest; and I recommend taking advantage of that. The easiest way to rest is to schedule a chunk of time to have a think, or go on a daydream. This actually might look a lot like meditating to the outside world, but it’s different; you’re allowed to think about whatever you want and let your thoughts carry you from here to there with no rules or structure or guidance. I like to go on a daydream in the afternoon, while listening to wordless piano music that I find very non-threatening. (Here’s my wordless playlist, btw.) I put on the music, and maybe grab a simple snack (popcorn, natch), and sit down in the huge red chair and think. Sometimes I close my eyes. Sometimes I get a little stuck and I start by thinking, “I can think about anything I want. Annnnyyyyything. Any. Old. Thing.” And I let my brain take me away. (Set a timer to let yourself go even more; it helps to only be responsible for what’s going on in your mind.) The cats usually join me.
The thing is, there will always be more on the to-do list. There will always be people who need you, things to accomplish, deadlines to meet. You will never find the time to get into a hammock for an entire day and truly collapse into the knowledge that you got it all done. The best time to rest is today. You do have time, you do have the tools, you do have the wherewithal.
If going on a daydream doesn’t sound good to you, I have listed a few more rest ideas below. Choose one. Choose two. Come up with your own! And then, when you’ve done that, tell me YOUR resting ideas. I’m 100 percent here for them.
Ideas for Rest:
(Choose one, or more!)
- Choose an album you haven’t listened to all the way through in a while and put it on. Lie on the floor while you listen to it. I mean, really listen to! Get into it. Get carried away. Think thoughts like, “That was sonically so pleasing to me.” Let the music be in the foreground.
- Read a magazine. I call this “shallow reading,” because you don’t have to really concentrate, and you can drop into the things that interest you. If you don’t have a magazine, subscribe to one! I really love thumbing through Bon Appetit (I know they have had some problems in the past, but their new editorial staff is great), and Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens, which inevitably has very pretty pictures of gardens. The gardens truly ARE better!
- Read a book. I call this “deep reading.” Also, I did not come up with these terms. Here’s the essay I’m borrowing this idea from.
- Get your feet wet for a WHILE. This is good for a hot day, when looking out at water is another excellent way to rest.
- Sit on your porch and gaze at stuff. Just make a long list of everything you see. Say hi to people, ask how they’re doing.
- Stretch out on a big bed or couch or cushion and roll your head around. Smell perfume samples. (If you are into perfume samples, which I am, for this couch-cushion activity, Vogue, Marie Claire, and GQ are good magazines to subscribe to.)