The Importance of Rest and Relaxation

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relaxation techniques

Pianist and composer Artur Schnabel was quoted as saying, “The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes — ah, that is where the art resides.” That same idea applies to physical and mental activity — knowing when and how to pause is essential to the art of healthy and happy living.

The Health Benefits of Rest and Relaxation

In today’s hectic world, there seems to be an emphasis on constant motion, both of our bodies and our minds. For many people, being physically and/or mentally still for even a few moments feels uncomfortable. We believe that in order to live our “best life” we have to be continually striving to achieve goals and have new experiences.

However, science tells us that what is best for our body and mind is a balance of activity and rest. Being overactive can produce a number of negative physical and mental consequences, including:

  • Muscle tension
  • Aches and pains
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Digestive issues
  • Insulin resistance
  • Weight gain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Depression

The proper balance of activity and rest, on the other hand, produces the opposite results, from reduced stress and lower blood pressure to increased energy level and improved immune function.

How to Work More Downtime Into Your Busy Schedule

In order to get more rest, you have to see downtime not as something that happens when you fail to be busy, but rather as an intentional decision. Schedule your inactivity the same way you do your activity. Below are some self-care actions you can add to your calendar to give your body and mind a healthy break.

  • A slow, 30-minute walk
  • Daily meditation
  • Eight hours of sleep
  • Restorative exercises like tai chi or yoga
  • Acupuncture treatments
  • A few minutes of deep, diaphragm-based breathing
  • An occasional massage
  • Watching a favorite TV show
  • A warm bath
  • Eating a meal “mindfully”
  • Permission to say “no” to social engagements

These kinds of things are just as important to your overall health and happiness as any other item on your To-Do list. Once you start treating them that way, you will find that they not only have intrinsic value, but they also help you perform better when you return to work, school and other activities.

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