Rest and Relaxation is Essential for Good Health

I have always felt that rest and relaxation are just as important as hard work, although it’s easy to forget. We all need to kick back and recover from all the stresses that life can bring. Being an athlete, I had to learn this the hard way with numerous over-use injuries over the years. But I think at least for now, that I have finally reached a point in my life where I can balance hard work and play time.


I came across a wonderful article called The Lost Practice of Resting One Day Each Week. This article is written by Joshua Becker who has a great website called Becoming a Minimalist. Joshua has a nice way of explaining the importance of taking some time off to rest and recover from the everyday grind. Without proper recovery, we can’t live a happy, healthy and fulfilled life. Checkout all of his relaxing tips for your body, mind, and soul:

Ask any physician and they will tell you that rest is essential for physical health. When the body is deprived of sleep, it is unable to rebuild and recharge itself adequately. Your body requires rest.

Ask any athlete and they will tell you that rest is essential for healthy physical training. Rest is needed for physical muscles to repair themselves and prevent injury. This is true whether you run marathons, pitch baseballs, or climb rocks. Your muscles require rest.

Ask many of yesterday’s philosophers and they will tell you that rest is essential for the mind. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.” And Ovid, the Roman poet, said, “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” Your mind requires rest.

Ask most religious leaders and they will tell you that rest is essential for the soul. Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i, and Wiccan (among others) teach the importance of setting aside a period of time for rest. Your soul requires rest.

Ask many corporate leaders and they will tell you that rest is essential for productivity. Forbes magazine recently wrote, “You can only work so hard and do so much in a day. Everybody needs to rest and recharge.” Your productivity requires rest.

Physicians, athletes, philosophers, poets, religious leaders, and corporate leaders all tell us the same thing: take time to rest. It is absolutely essential for a balanced, healthy life.

Yet, when you ask most people in today’s frenzied culture if they consistetly set aside time for rest, they will tell you that they are just too busy to rest. Even fewer would say that they set aside any concentrated time (12-24 hours) for rest. There are just too many things to get done, too many demands, too many responsibilities, too many bills, and too much urgency. Nobody can afford to waste time resting in today’s results-oriented culture.

Unfortunately, this hectic pace is causing damage to our quality of life. We are destroying every sense of our being (body, mind, and soul). There is a reason we run faster and work harder, but only fall farther behind. Our lives have become too full and too out of balance. Somewhere along the way, we lost the essential practice of concentrated rest. We would be wise to reclaim the ancient, lost practice of resting one day each week.

To get back into balance, just consider the countless benefits of concentrated rest for your body, mind, and soul:

§  Healthier body – We each get one life and one body to live it in. Therefore, we eat healthy, we exercise, and we watch our bad habits. But then we allow our schedules to fill up from morning to evening. Rest is as essential to our physical health as the water we drink and the air we breathe.

§  Less stress – Stress is basically the perception that the situations we are facing are greater than the resources we have to deal with them – resources such as time, energy, ability, and help from others. We have two choices, either reduce the demands or increase our resources. Concentrated rest confronts stress in both ways. First, it reduces the demands of the situation. We have no demands on us as long as we have the ability to mentally let go of unfinished tasks. Secondly, rest reduces stress by increasing our resources, particularly energy.

§  Deeper relationships – A day set aside each week for rest allows relationships with people to deepen and be strengthened. When we aren’t rushing off to work or soccer practice, we are able to enjoy each other’s company and a healthy conversation. And long talks prove to be far more effective in building community than short ones on the ride to the mall.

§  Opportunity for reflection Sometimes it is hard to see the forest through the trees. It is even more difficult to see the forest when we are running through the trees. Concentrated rest allows us to take a step back, to evaluate our lives, to identify our values, and determine if our life is being lived for them.

§  Balance – Taking one day of your week and dedicating it to rest will force you to have an identity outside of your occupation. It will foster relationships outside of your fellow employees. It will foster activities and hobbies outside our work. It will give you life and identity outside of your Monday-Friday occupation. Rather than defining your life by what you do, you can begin to define it by who you are.

§  Increased production – Just like resting physical muscles allows them opportunity to rejuvenate which leads to greater physical success, providing our minds with rest provides it opportunity to refocus and rejuvenate. More work is not better work. Smarter work is better work.

§  Reserve for life’s emergencies – Crisis hits everyone. Nobody who is alive is immune from the trials of life. By starting the discipline today of concentrated rest, you will build up reserves for when the unexpected emergencies of life strike… and rest is no longer an option.

Properly developing a discipline of concentrated rest requires both inward and outward changes. Consider these steps to reclaiming the lost practice of weekly rest in your life:

1. Find contentment in your current life. – Much of the reason we are unable to find adequate rest is because we are under the constant impression that our lives can and should be better than they are today. This constant drive to improve our standing in life through the acquisition of money, power, or skills robs us of contentment and joy. Ultimately, rest is an extension of our contentment and security. Without them, simplicity and rest is difficult, if not impossible. Stop focusing on what you don’t have and start enjoying the things that you do.

2. Plan your rest. Rest will come only from intentional planning and planning rest will come only if it is truly desired. Schedule it on your calendar. Learn to say no to any tasks that attempt to take precedent. Plan out your day of rest by choosing creative activities that are refreshing and encourage relationships. Understand that true rest is different than just not working. As the Cat in the Hat wisely said, “It is fun to have fun but you have to know how.” Avoid housework. Plan meals in advance to help alleviate cooking responsibilities. And by all means, turn off your television, e-mail, and blackberry.

3. Take responsibility for your life. You are not a victim of your time demands. You are the creator and acceptor of them. Refuse to complain or make excuses and start changing your habits. Remember, you are only as busy as you choose to be. Leave “if only” excuses to the kids. If needed, alert your employer about your desire for rest and tell them you will be unavailable on that particular day.

4. Embrace simplicity. Embrace a lifestyle that focuses on your values, not your possessions. It is difficult to find rest when the housework is never finished, the yard needs to be mowed, or the garage needs to be organized.

5. Include your family. It is much easier to practice the discipline of concentrated rest if your family is practicing it too. The fact that this gets more difficult as your kids get older should motivate you to start as soon as possible.

6. Live within your income. A debtor is a slave to his creditor. It is difficult to find rest for your mind when you are deep in debt. The constant distress of your responsibility to another may preclude you from truly enjoying a day off. It is possible; it’s just more difficult. Don’t overspend your income, live within it.

7. Realize the shallow nature of a results-oriented culture. If you live in a results-oriented culture where productivity alone is championed on every corner, rest is counter-cultural. And thus, the saying goes, “If you rest, you rust.” Rest may even be seen as a sign of weakness by others. Unfortunately, that view of humanity’s role in this world is shallow. It is true that many of the benefits from concentrated rest are not tangible; but then again, only a fool believes that all good things can be counted.

Rabbi Elijah of Vilna once said, “What we create becomes meaningful to us only once we stop creating it and start to think about why we did so.” The implication is clear. We could live lives that produce countless widgets, but we won’t start living until we stop producing and start enjoying. Capture again the lost practice of resting one day each week and start truly living.

Read more from Joshua at his blog, Becoming Minimalist, subscribe to his feed, or check out his new ebook, Simplify.

I hope you found this article helpful. We all need to set aside some time for rest and relaxation. All work with no play is no way to live. Let me know how you recover from a hard week of work.

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Best – Mike Cola

Fitness Blog


About Mike Cola

Mike Cola has well over 50,000 hours of hands-on personal training experience. He started his own personal training studio in1989, Mike Cola Fitness, which is located in New York.Connect with Mike @ Google+

10 Responses to “Rest and Relaxation is Essential for Good Health”

  1. Totally agree. Resting is as important as how you move when working out. Our body is just like all things in the world, it needs rest or else it will overheat like electronics.

  2. Mike,

    I completely agree that rest is very important to overall health and that it’s also probably the most underrated component of health. Unfortunately, today’s society leads people to believe that if they aren’t being productive, they are lazy. I believe everyone should make rest as big a priority as diet and exercise.

    Alykhan

  3. The trick with rest is that often times we think it’s either about getting enough sleep or taking a day off from working out. The truth is that rest takes both of these in to account.

    So you need to get plenty of sleep and you also need to know when to take a day off from the gym. The last thing anyone needs is a setback in their fitness plan.

    -Sam

  4. A day’s rest a week and seven hour’s sleep a night are both essential. Even children are getting less and less sleep and falling asleep at school. We must realise how important rest is.

  5. Sleep is vital for the human body to recuperate after a long busy day. Many people however, find that they are sleep-deprived, restless and fraught with worry when night time arrives. Being unable to shut down at the end of the day can be attributed to poor health habits.

  6. I strongly agree with the article. Our bodies are living beings who need a break. If no break Its will respond with such pain. To be balanced after work we need exercise to improve blood circulation of our body.

  7. strongly agree with the article, I believe everyone should make rest as big a priority as diet and exercise.

  8. Great article, great reminder for all of us to get refocused and looking after our health, and its benefits on productivity.

  9. One thing as i grew older i realized that recovery is one of the most important areas of fitness. Especially if you are trying to gain strength or muscle. Great read.

  10. When individuals are sleep-deprived their most common complaints are mental fatigue or confusion and musculoskeletal discomfort. Subsequent rest relieves these conditions. We therefore may extrapolate that sleep is essential to maintain mental clarity and to neutralize structural stress. The physiology behind the restoration of mental capacity is not yet well understood, however it would appear to be associated with renewing neurotransmitter chemicals and cell membrane potentials throughout our bodies. These processes in turn are dependent, at least in part, upon the length of rest, the quality of one’s nutrition, and the state of one’s mind. Rest also provides time for your logical, analytical ‘left’ brain to relax its dominance and thus allow the emotional and imaginative ‘right’ brain valuable time for creative expression. Thus, one of the keys to effective rest is learning how to turn down the volume of your ‘left’ brain while you tune into your ‘right’ brain! This is where the regular use of an exceptional guided imagery tape can be so useful.