Rest is a many-headed beast. Or if you prefer a cuter metaphor, a many-headed Shiba-Inu. We know we feel tired, exhausted, and not our best selves–but what will make us feel better?
Well, sometimes the answer is simple: cancel plans, sweats, ice cream (or Salt & Vinegar chips if you know what’s up), and a good limited series to pass the night away. On the opposite end, a night out with friends can help us feel rejuvenated.
While entertainment can make us feel better, it is not the same thing as rest.
Entertainment is just one solution, and usually, it’s like a piece of HubbaBubba: strong at first, but quick to fade until you're left wondering “What am I even doing this for?”
So, if rest is more than relaxing and entertainment, what are we left with?
Well first, we’re going to get on the same page with how we define rest. To Restwell we like to think rest is the product of slowing down and creating space for what we love.
As humans, we’re terrible at going slow. It’s like a personal challenge each time we see a speed limit sign or a checkout queue with one less person. We sleep less and fill our schedules more and if it’s possible to push, cram, do, and go faster we’ve already signed up yesterday.
We have to realize rest is going to take slowing down. And that’s going to feel…uncomfortable. At least at first.
In 2017, Harvard Medical School published an article called “Secret To Brain Success: Intelligent Cognitive Rest.” The article begins by saying people often train the focus network of their brains with mental exercises, things like puzzles and apps to help your memory, but there’s something called the “unfocus” network and it needs training too.
This unfocus network is actually called the Default Mode Network or DMN.(They make a chuckle-worthy joke about how it’s sometimes referred to as the “Do Mostly Nothing” network, so it’s good to know the folks at Harvard have a sense of humor.)
Ironically the DMN consumes more energy than any other network in the brain, about 20% while at rest. And you can imagine, with all that energy, it’s doing more than just tuning in and tuning out. When you’re able to turn your focus brain off, the DMN can do some pretty incredible work, like retrieving memories, linking ideas and concepts, boosting creativity, and helping you feel more connected to yourself and to other people. Unfocusing your mind in healthy ways sharpens your brain, not dulls it.
When you’re able to turn your focus brain off, the DMN can do some pretty incredible work, like retrieving memories, linking ideas and concepts, boosting creativity, and helping you feel more connected to yourself and to other people.
Because the world isn’t going to slow down around us, this habit can be difficult to develop or maintain, but finding out what rest you need and what rest you enjoy will make the biggest difference.
Physician and author of Sacred Rest Dr. Dalton-Smith says, “Rest is not the same thing as sleep. Rest encompasses the restorative activities we do that help us refill our tanks, which become depleted throughout the day. It truly reenergizes us.” In her work she identifies seven types of rest:
“One size does not fit all when it comes to rest,” she says. “Everything you do draws from a different pool of energy. The best rest occurs when you revive the specific kinds of energy you regularly deplete.”
This list can be helpful because often we’re not having trouble admitting something is wrong with the pace of our lives, but figuring out what to do about it.
Using Dr. Dalton-Smith’s list, you can reflect on the areas of your life that are strained, and find an activity to relieve them. There were common examples in both Dr. Dalton-Smith’s assessment and the Harvard Medical School’s article: Napping, being outside, exercising, limiting personal technology, being with loved ones, and meditating or reflecting.
Napping, being outside, exercising, limiting personal technology, being with loved ones, and meditating or reflecting.
As a journaling company, maybe you can see why this is relevant to us. Journaling won’t always give you rest––but it can, and healthy self-reflection habits will help you figure out what does give you rest. That’s why we have our guided journaling prompts. That’s why we create journals the slow way. Handcrafted isn’t just a marketing tactic, it’s an intentional practice.
If you were hoping for a quick list of 10 things to try to find rest; well, I guess Harvard Medical School or Dr. Dalton-Smith did a better job at that. We think it’s going to take some effort from you to really figure it out.
Rest is creativity. Rest is getting your hands dirty. Planting a seed in the ground and nurturing it. Rest is long talks with good friends. It’s making pasta from scratch or that Middle-Eastern dish with the crispy rice on the bottom of the pot that only gets there if you took the time to cook it right. It’s celebrating milestones of every size. It’s generosity and gratitude. It’s sitting in silence. It’s walking in nature. It’s acapella music in an old, stone building. Rest reminds us of what’s good and pure and gives us the energy to make what we have better.
Rest is more than doing nothing. Real rest, true rest, is something that beckons you to create. To give. To explore. To pursue the things you love.
Rest is what happens when you slow down and create space for what you love.