Rest. It’s necessary for human life to persist….
So then why are so many of us so bad at it?
The reality is, only so much rest is necessary to stay alive and we only need to get it from our nightly (usually nightly?) sleep. Anything else outside of that is just nice to have. At least, that’s what we used to think.
Decades of research have now proven everything we once thought about getting proper sleep and turned it on its head. However, rest is about a whole lot more than just getting your recommended eight hours of sleep per night.
It’s also about how you live and work as well.
If we could learn how to balance rest against effort, calmness against strain, quiet against turmoil, we would assure ourselves of joy in living and psychological health for life.
– Josephine Rathbone
Every day, we rush. From one place to another, trying to finish this or that project, handle all of our responsibilities, all like some huge house of cards that are always at risk of crashing down upon us. It’s this sense that we can’t step away from, or the thought of what would happen if we did, that often keeps us from allowing ourselves to rest.
But this goes far beyond sleep. In a fundamental sense, we don’t allow ourselves to rest. Both because we feel we have too much to do and because we believe we haven’t earned it – that we’re not worthy of stopping because we haven’t achieved our goals.
This is why off-time and vacations don’t work for the lot of us – and even when we’re on vacation, we don’t let ourselves rest because we keep those issues top-of-mind despite the change of scenery. The real domain to worry about is between your ears, not where you are physically.
However, more important is the fact that things like off-time and vacations are meant as temporary solutions to a much larger underlying problem. These temporary solutions, at best, make us feel refreshed for a time only to feel exactly the same days later, as the effects of said vacation begin to wear off.
So then, how do we attain true rest? What does it take to rest the body and mind completely? And how do we maintain this rested state so we can perform at our best and be our happiest each day? Let’s talk about it.
The way we typically work and live (and why it’s bad)
I remember a time about two years ago when I was visiting Disneyland with my family. At one point, we were in line to get into Star Tours, the classic Star Wars ride that’s been at Disneyland in Anaheim, California for nearly three decades.
There was a mother speaking with her two children in front of us. One of the young boys seemed to be prodding his mother to let him go on a different ride they had already been on once before. The conversation went something like this:
Child: But, mom! I want to go on the Buzz Lightyear ride again!
Mom: John, we still have X, Y, Z rides to go on and X, Y, Z things to do. If we don’t hurry we’ll never have enough time to do everything.
She spoke as if their fun trip to Disneyland was some sort of important work project with certain objects that had to be marked off.
It seemed to me as though she wasn’t able to turn off work (or mommyhood, a bigger and more challenging job than most) and instead made their vacation into a strenuous project with specific tasks that needed to be completed by day’s end otherwise, well, they were behind on their work.
This isn’t about sleep – it’s about our habitual behavior. It’s about mental constraints and freeing ourselves from the idea that if we stop, we won’t hit our goal or be able to get everything done.
But that simply isn’t true. This is an idea that’s been planted in our minds due to years of conditioning. And if we hope to find true rest and to maintain that state of rest in our daily life, so that we’re not just productive but happy and healthy, we need to learn how to overcome it.
How to attain complete rest
Mental conditioning is always difficult to rid ourselves of. However, a good dose of logic and some awareness often goes a long way to loosening the hold that mental conditioning has over us.
The reality is, while I could give you basic advice on how to feel more rested like keeping a journal, meditating, reading a good fiction book for a few minutes each day, or adopting a nightly ritual that combines all of those, if you don’t work on this underlying point you won’t get very far. In fact, you’ll rarely ever be able to convince yourself to do any of those things because you won’t allow yourself to stop – even for a moment.
So, to that end, here’s a little principle I’ve used to help shake me from this long-standing conditioning:
In almost every case, you’ll make it happen with whatever resources are available to you.
Let me explain. If you have eight hours to complete a project, if it’s important enough, you’ll find a way to complete it in eight hours. But what if you had six? Yeah, the chances are very high you’d find a way to make it happen in six hours too. But why?
Our output tends to match that of the container we’re placed into.
If we’re under time constraints, that container is time. If we’re under financial constraints that container is money. In both cases, we can often do the same thing with fewer of the relevant resource than we think by simply pushing ourselves smarter.
How will this help us attain (and maintain) a state of complete rest? By helping you realize that the excuses you keep giving yourself – about not having enough time to get things done – is total bullshit.
You need to realize that your consistent thought pattern of, “I can’t stop”, “I don’t have enough time for that”, and, “I’ll rest when I finish” is killing you and actually making you less productive.
The truth is, most of you could push yourselves to do the same amount of work in less time and end up with that free time to rest and relax your body and mind each day. You have time to stop and meditate; You have time to stop and watch a good movie that brings you joy; and you have time to go for that afternoon run.
And the cool part about this is, it can make you even more productive and efficient in everything you do because you’ve learned how to work more efficiently out of necessity.
Rest is a necessary part of life. But, the truth is, we’re pretty bad at it. There are now decades worth of sleep research backing the importance of getting your eight hours daily, however, most people completely miss another critical factor: our state of mind in everyday life.
By identifying this thought pattern in yourself and working to, well, unwork it you’ll be able to do the same in less time and find the opportunity for rest and relaxation in each day you never knew you had.