How to embrace the ancient art of REST

Imagine for a moment that I was the boss of you. And as that boss, the only thing I required was that you rest for an entire day each week.

No work. No emails. No chores.

Just relax, eat, cook, socialise, read, think, enjoy the view.

Could you do it? I know you’d like to do it. You might even be going, “Pffffft shuhhhh Carolyn, you crazy bint, who wouldn’t love to do nothing for a day – OF COURSE I WOULD DO IT‽”

But if you actually had to do it, I bet you would struggle. Most of us would, because we’re all set to busy mode and it’s a tough one to switch off.

I was listening to an episode of our favourite podcast The Happiness Lab the other day, where they were talking about “the wisdom of the ancients” – in this instance, the Jewish tradition of Shabbat (or the Sabbath) – the day of rest, which comes at the end of the working week.

Not being Jewish myself, I am not going to be the ignorant douche that tries to explain the ins and outs of it here in two easy sentences, but if you want to listen to the episode, go here. You won’t regret it – even if you have zero interest in the religious angle. It’s inspired me to find more rest in my life, and although I can’t quite come at a whole day just yet, I’m definitely looking for pockets.

Besties who rest together…

A few years ago, I was feeling stressed and anxious, and my psychologist gave me the homework of sitting still and doing nothing for 10 minutes a day. 10 minutes! It was WAY harder than I expected, but the benefits were huge. I felt my brain start to unwind, and found myself fitting more pockets of nothing in my day.

When’s the last time you sat still and did absolutely nothing for 10 minutes?

My current mission is to find moments of rest, for however long I can squeeze them. And if I have to wait for anything – think post office queues and doctors’ waiting rooms – I just sit and resist the urge to distract myself with my phone. And I’m discovering some wonderful benefits.

  1. I’m calmer. I can actually feel my brain unwinding and slowing down from all the automatic spinning it does most of the day.
  2. I’m having deeper conversations that I wouldn’t have if I was just hitting the high notes with people. Whether it’s people in my home or strangers I meet when I’m out and about, I’m connecting all over the place and it’s wonderful.
  3. I’m solving problems. It’s weird how problems can seem enormous and untenable until you give your brain that bit of space it needs to be creative. That’s why we often come up with great solutions in the shower. More quiet contemplation equals a more creative brain.
  4. I’m kinder. Having those quiet moments gives me a chance to examine issues from all sides and makes me less inclined towards knee-jerk reactions. My children are especially happy about this one.

So how do you do nothing? Well, that’s largely up to you, but here are some tips:

  1. Carve out some time and commit. Somewhere between 10 minutes and a whole day is going to be your sweet spot, and it’s up to you how much time you want to take. I’d suggest starting small and building your way up to bigger chunks – either once a week or even a few times a day.
  2. Turn off your phone notifications – set it to “do not disturb”, and tell everyone around you what you’re doing. It doesn’t mean they have to leave you alone (although feel free to use this as an excuse if you want that to happen), but they do need to respect that you probably won’t be jumping into a Netflix marathon just now.
  3. Take responsibility for your own life. Yes, I know you’re busy. So am I. But this is about priorities. Only you can decide what’s important but I promise you, if you think you don’t have time, you actually do. You are as busy as you choose to be, and you get done what you choose to make important.

Now, unfortunately, I am not the boss of you (I know, I’m sad too). Whether you take this gentle reminder and sit with it is entirely up to you.

But I promise you these three things:

  1. You DO have time.
  2. You WILL feel better.
  3. You CAN do it.

So what’s it going to be?

Written By

Carolyn is the editorial director of Champagne Cartel and a freelance writer. In her spare time she is a long-distance runner, peanut butter enthusiast, and single mum to three incredible humans.

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