Many of us have some of our best ideas when we’re away from work and supposedly resting. The brain wave that sweeps across us in the shower. The solution to a problem that pops into our head when we’re dozing off to sleep.
Rest is an important time for our minds and bodies. As Antonia Hoyle explains in an article for The Telegraph, “rest provides vital moments of introspection; a chance to digest information so that life makes sense and new ideas surface.”
For different people, rest means different things. It may include a vigorous workout at the gym, for others it might be an hour spent reading a novel. A major new survey, the global Rest Test, launched by Hubbub, an international collective of social scientists, humanities researchers, public engagement professionals and mental health experts, aims to find out what rest means to us and why we need it.
In her article, Hoyle notes a new understanding around the importance of rest. While it may once have had associations with laziness, scientists now have a greater understanding of its full health benefits. Perhaps that’s why there seems to be a greater focus on taking and getting rest. Various apps have been created to support resting, mindfulness is becoming increasingly trendy, and companies such as Virgin are rethinking their annual leave policies to make them more generous.
Yet, for many, finding time for meaningful rest is a challenge. According to The Economist, this is despite people having, on average, more free time than they used to. It’s often suggested that this is because while we might be spending less time in the office, many of us are spending more time connected to it via smartphones and the internet. It’s hard to switch-off completely when you feel the buzz of an email entering the inbox on your mobile phone.
Perhaps the real challenge is about knowing how to rest properly. Societal pressure can make this difficult – particularly in competitive work places. Few people want to admit to being quiet. Instead many workers like to highlight how busy they are when it might not even be the case. Too often we feel guilty for taking time out so we reach for our email to reassure ourselves we’re working hard. Unless they feel confident about resting, people risk becoming anxious, worrying about what others might think and feel they should be doing something considered more productive, rather than switching off.
Of course, hard work is important and can be very satisfying. But given meaningful rest can make us more productive, it needs to be taken seriously. A better understanding of how to rest successfully may pave the way for more creative ideas when we least expect them.