Different Types of Rest

Anuj Wadhwa

Dec 28, 2020

When we get tired of too much work or physical exhaustion, the first thought that comes to our mind is that we need to rest.

How do we understand rest though? Well, most of us will consider sleeping more as a way to feel rested.

But is sleep the only tangible way of effectively resting and recouping?

There are actually 7 types of rest that we all need to incorporate into our lives.

Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual, Sensory, Social & Creative!

Sleep is just a way to physically rest and somewhat mentally too (Although our mind is fairly active in most stages of sleep)

There is an eye-opening TED talk by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith where she awakens people about the real definition of rest and how it needs to be adopted.

Just listening to her makes one check-in with themselves and wonder how well-rested we actually are in these areas which we were not even considering as ‘depleted’ or needing dire attention.


Let’s explore each type of rest and a few action points on each.


1. Physical Rest: This is an easy one to realize and the most obvious one to address. Yet, most people still overlook it, at times, believing that the physical body must be pushed to stay strong. While that is partially true, balancing it with ‘some’ rest is where recovery happens. The challenge is that the right amount of rest is a mystery and most of us are guilty of underestimating our personal needs.

Roger Federer is famous for sleeping 12 hours a day, since he knows his body needs it, given his profession. Results truly speak for him.  So the only obvious step for all of us is to use a tool to realize if our body is well-rested or not. Try out this simple way to communicate with your body, regularly. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, let it get longer and slower. Now scan your whole body and notice, if you are holding any part stiff. If there is any tension in any area. It will just take 1 minute or less and this will allow you to check-in with your body and see how it is doing.

If you are like most people, you will find some of your body parts stiff or cringed, like the forehead, shoulders, abdominal muscles, and even the pelvic floor muscles! If you find your body needing some time off, start with sleep. Give yourself quality sleep before deciding what the right quantity is. Adding to that, include stretching in your morning and/or evening routine. As short as 2 minutes can take you a long way and is better than none at all! Get a massage once a week or get an acupressure. Physical touch can be greatly relieving for our bodies.

2. Mental Rest: If you have lasted till this part of the article, I bet you are someone who is a committed person and ambitious in life. Often what happens is that with all the ambition and will to achieve, we overload our minds with so much information, with the fear of missing out or being left behind in the race, that we don’t allow the mind to process all the inputs and take time to draw its own conclusions by simply having some space. Mental Rest is found in Meditation. You can find a long list of meditations with a single google search and they all are probably effective. I recommend starting with the simplest techniques, which might be counterintuitive.

Meditation is one of those disciplines where less is truly more. A famous Yogi once said, “Beginners need to start with simple techniques, Intermediate can advance to more complex ones and Advanced level seekers need to get back to the simple techniques they originally started off with.”One of the simplest and most effective meditation is The Breath Counter.

Sit in a comfortable pose or simply lie down. Choose a target number in your mind. Ideally, just start with anywhere between 10-15. Start counting your breath. one inhale and one exhale i.e. a cycle of breath is one count of breath. Once you take breath number 15, if 15 was your target, start reverse counting and go back to zero. So effectively you count 30 breaths. There will be times that you will lose count as some thoughts will enter your mind. If you do, start at zero! Slowly work your way up to 100 or even more!

This meditation will build your focus and concentration, while simultaneously relaxing your mind. If done regularly, your mind will start to be more in the present moment and you will realize that despite the external circumstances being as stressful and chaotic as they always have been, your mind will feel calm and stable throughout the day despite being highly focused and efficient, way more than before. It is truly a win-win and a highly ‘productive’ act. To give your meditation a boost, you can consider taking CBD Oil sometime before your meditation to gain some momentum. It is great for beginners who are not used to just sitting and doing nothing! We need such boosts given our lack of training in such a discipline in our younger years.

Mental Rest

3. Emotional Rest: Our emotions are nothing but ‘energy in motion’ It is what makes us feel alive and human. People misunderstand emotions as some kind of sensitive behavior that strong people don’t exhibit.

Remember the day that you had a small argument with your loved one in the morning before work? Could you be fully present in your meetings all day or was your back of the mind partially consumed with the confrontation?

Or maybe the time when you got a promotion at work and when you reach home in the evening, you can’t stop smiling despite your kids causing havoc or your partner complaining as usual.

Our emotions, be it positive or negative, are influential in deciding how we behave in situations. Whether we react impatiently or respond gleefully to external stimuli depends on what state our emotions are in.
The ideal state of emotions is balanced and not overexcited. Although it is human to experience the extremities at times, being over ecstatic or depressed all the time can be draining to our hormonal system. It is just how we are designed!

Now how do we achieve this homeostasis of our emotional system? Well, there are really simple techniques, some of them which we might even be aware of but it is all about execution.

The first one I would consider is asking questions. What does that have to do with emotions? When you meet someone from your family, the first thing that you want to do is share your excitements, joys, and/or sorrows to feel lighter. While that is a useful way to feel lighter, next time try just asking questions and being genuinely interested in knowing others’ stories first. It will strengthen your bonds as your loved ones will be so overjoyed with you providing them with space to express themselves. That will in turn fill you with joy to sense your loved one in a blissful state.  This approach is surely counterintuitive but highly effective.

Another thing that you can try to charge your emotions and bring them to balance is breathwork. Our emotions are directly linked to our Heart Rate Variability (HRV) with a higher HRV indicating better emotional regulation

One type of breathwork that can help you achieve an ideal state of HRV is pattern breathing. A pattern could be of your choosing, just keep the exhale longer than the inhale. I recommend starting with inhaling 5 and exhale 8 ratio

4. Spiritual Rest: When we talk of rest, spiritual rest is probably the last type of rest we would think of. I mean, first of all, we are not even clear what the word ‘Spirit’ really means and what the spirit is all about.

To keep it simple, let’s just consider the spirit an ‘observer’ in all of us. When we ‘watch our mind’, the entity that watches our mind is the spirit! We don’t need to give it a form or a specific definition but just sense into your own being and try to locate the observer that is witness to all of your faculties. How do we rest this observer? Great question! Spiritual Rest can be one of the most complex types of rests in a world that is all about reductionism and worshipping tangibility. For science enthusiasts, Quantum Physics is an arena to consider if intrigued by the form of ethereal subjects like the spirit. Having a limited understanding of this phenomenon, you can consider skipping this point if you don’t wish to work on something you cannot measure!

For those who are interested to give it a shot, we have ONE powerful way of recharging your spirit with nothing to lose except a minute or two in a day. Praying! We all used to pray at some point in our life and some of us still do! Make a simple ritual of praying regularly. Folded hands are a great way to get in the zone, close your eyes, and let your inner child ask for anything that you wish in your life with a pure heart. Or maybe just thank you for all that you have if you are overflowing with gratitude. Have a strong intention to connect and a good chance that you will just feel nice after doing it!

5. Sensory Rest: This is my favorite one! Our senses are CONSTANTLY bombarded with various over stimulatory sensations. “Get more flavors out of every bite,” says the commercial of the latest hamburger joint. “More vivid colors and sharper display,” says the advert for the newest smartphone.  Cars honking on the streets smell of different chemicals in various stores, high BPM music, and whatnot. We are certainly the MOST stimulated generation that history has seen. Are we ready to handle so much stimulation? Don’t think so. Nervous breakdowns, anxiety, panic attacks are clear outcomes of an overstimulated nervous system, which is overworked with all the inputs it needs to carry to the brain.
If you had to choose one type of rest you need to start with, choose this one. I bet you will find a lot of options to rest your senses, but for me, the most important one is avoiding screens or any form of technology after sunset. That is the time our senses just want to retreat and rest for the day. Don’t take them on overdrive by squeezing in just one more round of a game or an episode on Netflix. Calm your nervous system with a short walk, a dip in a warm salt bath, or just light music and a cup of tea with your loved one, with no distraction!

man resting on couch

6.Social Rest: Yes, humans are certainly social creatures! We love to be in packs and live to enjoy our next night out with friends. Being active socially is certainly healthy and a common feature in blue zones with centenarians enjoying a social life and crediting their close connections as contributors to their longevity.

Social Rest applies if you are constantly surrounded by people and feel awkward sitting alone. If your dependence on being around people has risen to the point that you have lost the joy of being in your own company, STOP. Spend at least half a day in a week doing an activity that you generally do with people, all by yourself. For beginners, go to the movies alone. If you are feeling brave, go to a cafe for a cup of coffee just with your diary and without your phone. You will find a new friend who deserves your attention and love!

7. Creative Rest: Creativity is not just for kids and artists. Humans are born creative. It is our ability ‘to create’. We all create in our life. We create value for a company that pays us money in return. We create joy for our loved ones which forms lasting relationships. We create healthful movements when we exercise that gives us a happy body. There is a saying in an African Tribe “If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing”

The fear of judgment coupled stops us from doing a lot of things we will deeply enjoy doing. Travel back in time to the point when you were a young kid. What did you enjoy? Which moments come back to you with the fondest of memories? Was it your clay modeling sessions in school? Was it your annual function where you had to personify a flower on stage? Or was it reading comic books with stories of superhumans?
Creativity is not well defined in our world. It is not just drawing or dancing. It can be a simple task like walking into the kitchen, seeing the ingredients at hand, and not reading any recipe to create a unique dish out of your imagination. It could also mean editing your email signature and adding an element like a quote, which most people ‘don’t have time for’, to allow your unique being to be expressed in unconventional ways.

Let’s consider a very specific action you can take on a regular basis to allow your creativity to shine through and be expressed in simple ways.

Make an empty file on Gdrive, name it ‘The Creativity Menu’, and every time you think of an activity that feels creative to you, add it in bullet points to that list. Every Sunday, after your breakfast, consider opening that file and choosing any one activity out of that list and give it a shot! Keep trying different activities to see which ones you enjoy the most! Some options to get started are: Colouring Books, Perfume Making, Cooking without a recipe, dance to your favorite song in a room that is pitch dark, Write poetry on any topic of your interest, Stitch a cushion cover, go on Pinterest and pin art pieces that you like and much much more! Basically, keep it achievable! You get the point 😉

Rest is much more than sleep and more productive than we think. Once you incorporate some elements of rest in your life, you will see how refreshed you feel at work or any other of your usual pursuits!

So make the time you spent reading this article count! Start with any one type of rest to begin with and consider including the others too slowly.

Also, do share how you like to rest if we did not cover it in this article!

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