At this point, we’re all aware of the basics of getting enough rest: proper sleep, less screen time, more relaxation. We also know how important it is to get enough rest. But in a world so driven by distraction and hustle, the idea of ‘doing nothing’ can be daunting. In fact, ‘doing nothing’ can actually be counterproductive to true rest. When we’re streaming shows, scrolling through our social media feeds, or even reading a book, our brains are still working to digest content. And while these activities do make us happy and help us unwind, we’re not truly resting; just distracting ourselves.
Furthermore, if you aren’t truly resting throughout the day, it can be difficult to ‘turn your brain off’ at bedtime, and broken, tossing-and-turning sleep isn’t restful. Proper mental rest during the day is vital to getting great physical sleep at night.
There are seven types of rest, and physically resting your body is only one of them. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to rest that don’t involve sleep or just ‘doing nothing.’
If you struggle with totally zoning out, explore these more active forms of rest.
7 Types of Rest
PHYSICAL: This is what most of us think of when we think of rest. You can get physical rest in two ways: passively (sleep) and actively (restorative practices like yoga, massage, or stretching).
MENTAL: You know that feeling you experience when you’re exhausted and drained, but not exactly sleepy? That’s a surefire sign you need mental rest. Take a break from your computer, grab a snack, and unwind for a bit.
CREATIVE: Brainstorming new ideas and working through problems takes energy. Refresh your mind and feed your artsy side through a relaxing and creative activity – like playing an instrument, drawing or coloring, reading a book, or dancing around the house.
SPIRITUAL: When we spend too much time wrapped up in other people’s lives and drama, we lose our connection with our inner selves. Get some spiritual rest by meditating, communing with a higher power, or even just talking to a friend.
EMOTIONAL: Do you find yourself saying “yes” to everything? If so, you need emotional rest. Set clear boundaries, protect your energy, and allow yourself to say “no” to things that drain you. Therapy also falls into this category.
SOCIAL: Spending too much time around other people can be draining. Take some time to yourself, reconnect with your feelings, and prioritize people who energize you.
SENSORY: Sensory overload is real, and with so many devices at our fingertips, it’s pretty common. Establish boundaries with your devices, schedule an unplugged weekend, or just turn your notifications off for a bit. You can also step back from media, keeping in mind that auditory media (music and podcasts) can also contribute to sensory overload.
You may find that you need more of certain types of rest than others (i.e. social rest may hold more weight for an introvert). Take some time to try out different types of rest, see which ones feel most refreshing to you, and slowly work them into your self-care routine.
Finding a Restful Activity for You
As you explore different restful activities, ask yourself these questions:
“Is this stressful?” If your preferred form of rest is drawing but your current project is complex or frustrating, you’re not resting. Rest shouldn’t get you all heated up; it should cool you down!
“Do I enjoy this?” Not everyone loves walking around their neighborhood or dancing in their bedroom. Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy because you feel like you should like it. Rest should make you happy!
“Does this recharge me?” The most important factor is how you feel after you rest. Do you feel recharged? Do you feel fresh and ready to work? Or do you feel even more tired than you were before? If this activity truly falls under one of the seven types of rest, you’ll feel great afterwards. Rest should feel… well, restful. If it doesn’t, that’s not the right form of rest for you.
Restful Activity Ideas
Try these activities as you experiment with different types of rest:
Take a walk – This could fall into mental, sensory, or even spiritual rest! Take a walk through your neighborhood or on a local hiking trail. Don’t listen to music. Just walk and observe the world around you.
Do some skincare – A gentle skincare routine is a great way to actively rest while still feeling productive. Pop on a face mask, give yourself a massage, or treat yourself to a scrub.
Pick up a new craft – People who knit, color, do puzzles, or cook often talk about the ‘meditative’ quality of their craft. When you’re learning the basics, you can’t expect your new hobby to be restful. But as you get better at it, it’ll require less brainpower and soon you’ll be able to “zone out” while doing it.
Spend time with your pet – If ‘doing nothing’ at home makes you feel lonely, spend some intentional time with your pet. Play with them. Snuggle them while they nap. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and forget to spend quality time with your pet, but it’s great for your health and it means the world to them.
Dance it out — Swaying to some soft music or bouncing around to your favorite pump-up playlist is sure to boost your mood.
Proper rest takes practice, so don’t feel bad if you don’t find a routine that works for you right away. Keep experimenting with different types of rest, practice other forms of self-care, and get plenty of sleep. You got this!
Maigen Pham, LMFT, CST-Candidate
Maigen has worked with children, adolescents, adults, and couples – in addition to providing behavioral therapy to children with autism. Her approach to counseling is holistic, eclectic, and collaborative in order to help individualize sessions for each person. Additionally, as a Certified Sex Therapist-Candidate, Maigen provides therapy for individuals experiencing problems with sexual intimacy.