Active Rest: What It is and Why You’ll Want to Do It
You know you need to give your mind and body adequate sleep, but what are you doing about active rest? While the term might sound like an oxymoron, it's actually a real requirement for your health and wellbeing.
If you've heard about active rest at all, it's probably in the context of physical exercise. For example, you rest your legs while you work your arms, or take up swimming for a month if you're recovering from an injury caused by running.
Active rest can also be applied to other areas of your life. It refers to engaging in a less intense activity or a different kind of activity. It can be anything you do while you're awake to renew and rejuvenate.
If you feel tired much of the time with no physical cause or you just want more joy out of life, take a look at how you spend your days. Try these suggestions for active rest...
Scheduling Active Rest:
- Prepare for mid-afternoon. A slump can hit you anytime, but mid-afternoon is especially common. Block out time for a break sometime between 2 and 4 pm.
- Pace yourself. Most of us can concentrate for only about 90 minutes to 2 hours at a time. You may even want to take a breather each hour to avoid becoming fatigued.
- Increase the frequency. Have you been taking one long vacation each year? It may help to spread your leave time out.
- Leave work behind. Resist taking work home with you on weekends and evenings. Make unscheduled free time a priority.
Providing Active Rest for Your Mind:
- Zone out. Indulge in mental wandering. Studies show that we sometimes come up with more creative solutions when we stop thinking directly about one predicament or another.
- Meditate on mindfulness. Develop a daily meditation practice or find other activities that encourage you to be present. It could be cooking or gardening.
- Practice your faith. Connect with the divine. Read inspirational literature. Pray at home or find a spiritual community where you feel like you belong.
- Read a book. When was the last time you read a book for pleasure or read anything longer than a social media post? Try losing yourself in a classic novel or expand your knowledge of medieval history or romantic poetry.
- Socialize more. Reach out to family and friends. Watch a movie together instead of streaming solo on your own devices. Gather for family dinners and play group sports.
Providing Active Rest for Your Body:
- Close your eyes. Give your brain some time off from visual stimulation. Shut your eyes and bring your focus inward. Enjoy the peace and calm.
- Breathe deeply. Reduce stress and enhance your circulation. Breathe through your nostrils, bringing the air up from your diaphragm. Lengthen your exhalations until you feel like all the air has gently drifted out of your body.
- Go outside. Nature is energizing. Take a walk around the block or sit by a lake.
- Move around. Stay active in between your regular workouts. Stand up and stretch each half hour when you’re working at your desk. Perform sit ups during the commercials when you’re watching the evening news.
- Do yoga. You may want to become a regular at your local yoga studio or just learn some basic poses you can do anywhere. Ease away tension by lying on your back with your legs up a wall or reenergize with various backbends.
Make time each day to slow down and silence the outside world. Remember that active rest makes you more productive. With enough good quality sleep and rest, you're likely to lead a longer and happier life.