The Art of Rest

A light and fun read. Hammond uses a survey of 18,000 people and the forms of rest that they prefer, then explores the psychology and research of the top ten to see how and why they work. She finds it amusing that the ten did not include spending time with friends and family and makes the important distinction that she’s not looking at activities that make people happiest but rather, what makes them feel most rested. The top five of those are often done alone. 

She addresses a core issue across the board – guilt about resting. Most of us feel real guilt about taking time for ourselves, especially in a culture where being ‘busy’ and working round the clock are seen as desirable values. That’s why, she discovers, many forms of rest involve actually doing something physical while it enables the mind to decompress. 

Watching TV, for example, is very relaxing after a long day but also has heavy associations of guilt. She looks at how this came about on a cultural level and why finding a balance is key by unpacking the pattern of cause and effect. Like, is it that watching way too many hours in the day can have knock-on effects like isolation or is it that those who spend man-hours watching TV are already feeling more socially isolated?

Here’s are most of the top ten – mindfulness, watching TV, day dreaming, walking, doing nothing in particular, listening to music, being alone, spending time in nature and, look what came in as the number one preferred method of resting – reading (!). Note that sleep and rest are not the same. Rest can be something really active like playing football, or sedentary, like lying around reading a book.

Hammond does a lovely job of helping one to examining our own habits and what do we do to unwind and reenergise ourselves. Whether we classify ourselves as introverts or extroverts, everyone can benefit from some alone time. In short, whatever works for you and whatever combination helps you. The key thing is to make time for rest and that you enjoy it and don’t feel guilty about it. 

It was actually restful to read this book!

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