Rest is essential for physical and mental health and managing chronic illness. However, to rest well and for us to feel fully refreshed and recharged there are 7 different types of rest we need. In this post I detail the benefits and importance of rest and recovery, describe the 7 different types of rest we need and the specific activities to achieve the benefits of each one.
Disclaimer: This post is intended for informational purposes only. I’m not a qualified practitioner and I’m not encouraging anyone else to these activities. Please consult a qualified practitioner before making any changes to your current lifestyle and treatment plan or if you have any medical and health concerns. This post contains affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you I will earn commission if you click on a link and make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. See my full disclaimer here.
The Importance of Rest and Relaxation
We live in a world where rest is seen as lazy. We are expected to be constantly on the go with society basing people’s worth on how productive we are, the job we have, the money we earn and what we achieve. As a result, rest is so often neglected and only prioritised when we’re exhausted, our health worsens and our body forces us to rest.
However, rest isn’t:-
- A waste of time
It’s when we rest:-
- We absorb the nutrients from the food we eat.
- We become stronger and fitter from our exercise program.
- Our brains rewire and adapt from visualisations and changing our thought patterns.
- Our bodies heal and regenerate.
Rest, contrary to what society tries to tell us, has just as many health benefits and is just as important and productive as every other aspect of health and every other strategy and treatment recommended to improve physical and mental wellbeing and manage chronic illness.
- Increases energy levels,
- Allows us to recharge,
- Improves our mood,
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Tips To Rest Well
Even knowing this, it’s hard to rest, especially without feeling guilty. However, one of the things that is allowing me to make the biggest improvements in my health is overcoming society’s perception of rest being lazy and unproductive, realising I don’t have to do, achieve or overcome anything to earn rest and scheduling restful periods everyday, regardless of how I feel.
7 Types of Rest
For a long time I perceived rest to be just sleeping at night or sitting and laying down during the day not doing anything. However, no matter how many hours I was able to sleep or how long I rested during the day, I never felt fully refreshed after.
I then discovered Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith’s book “Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity” (UK Link/US Link), where I learnt that there are 7 different types of rest our bodies need to optimally heal, restore and recharge. While sleep and sitting or laying down provides us with physical rest, they aren’t sufficient to meet the other 6 types. Each of the 7 types of rest require different activities to achieve their benefits.
Below are the 7 types of rest which allow me to maximise the benefits of rest periods and cause me to feel more refreshed and energised after.
1). Physical rest
There are 2 types of physical rest – passive and active. Scheduling both active and passive rest is optimal for physical health.
- Passive physical rest involves sleep and napping.
- Active physical rest includes massage, acupuncture, yoga and stretching. These modalities increase blood flow, promote relaxation, reduce pain and muscle tension, improve mobility and flexibility and reduce inflammation (3, 4).
2). Mental Rest
This involves freeing our mind from any input and stimulation and switching technology off. No podcasts, reading, listening to music, watching tv or scrolling on our phones.
Instead it involves:-
- Going out and spending time in nature,
- Grounding, placing your bare feet on the grass,
- Getting fresh air and sunlight,
- Relaxing in an Epsom salt bath.
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3). Emotional Rest
We live in a world where positivity is embraced. This can lead to us bottling up our emotions up and hiding how we feel. Emotional rest involves releasing and processing these emotions.
Examples of how to do this include:-
- Confiding in a trusted close friend or family member.
- Talking to professional counsellor or therapist.
- Journalling – brain dump, involving writing down all your thoughts on piece of paper, if you don’t feel comfortable opening up to another person.
4). Spiritual Rest
This involves connecting beyond the physical and mental and allowing us to feel a sense of belonging, purpose and love.
As a Christian, for me this looks like reading my bible and praying. For others who aren’t religious, volunteering is a common way of gaining a sense of purpose and belonging.
5). Social Rest
We’re connected, whether physically in real life or on social media, to more people than ever. This also means we’re more exposed to receiving negative remarks and comparing ourselves to others and feeling inferior.
Social rest doesn’t necessarily involve spending time alone, however, this is important, especially if you’re an introvert like me. It also involves making time to deepen relationships with the people who value you and encourage and uplift you. Examples of social rest include:-
- Catching up with an old close friend.
- Saying no and turning down invites if you’re not up to attending them.
- Ringing or zooming a family member.
- Spending time alone.
6). Sensory Rest
Throughout the day our 5 senses are constantly absorbing information, from artificial lights from our phones and computer screens, traffic, constant background noise and talking to others. It can be easy for them to become overloaded.
Sensory rest involves reducing the stimulation on our 5 senses, which can involve:-
- Close your eyes for a few minutes
- Switch technology off
- Unplug from social media
- Look out into nature
- Switch the TV off
- No podcasts
- No listening to music
- Cover your body with a weighted blanket, such as Mela Comfort or YnM
- Epsom salt baths (UK Link/US Link)
- Grounding, placing your bare feet on the grass
- Burn a natural toxin free scented candle, such as Tofu, Touche or Octo in the UK, or Mile High Life, Prank Kiss or All Fur One in the US
- Diffuse relaxing essential oils. The following are especially great for easing anxiety and increasing relaxation (5):-
- Enjoy your favourite food or drink, taking the time to focus on each mouthful. We so often are distracted when eating, which can impair digestion and reduces the amount of nutrients we absorb.
7). Creative Rest
Everyday our brains are constantly engaged completing to do lists, organising tasks, brainstorming ideas, studying, arranging appointments and researching. Creative rest involves doing an activity purely for the fun and enjoyment, away from the demands of work, family life and chronic illness, to refresh and regain inspiration. This can involve:-
- Being out in nature,
- Playing an instument,
- Composing music,
- Playing games,
- Walking in nature or along the beach,
- Reading a book.
Schedule Rest & Relaxation “Snacks” First Throughout The Day
How often when planning our days and weeks do we plan activities, exercise, chores and socialising and then try and squeeze some time to rest in if we’re able to. So often rest is the last thing we schedule and it only gets prioritised after achieving or overcoming something, ticking off everything on a long to do list or when our body forces us too.
However, it’s important to rest to prevent bad days not because of them. So I’ve been changing my mindset recently when planning my days and scheduling periods of rest first and then planning my other activities around it, regardless of how much energy I have. Allowing myself to rest everyday, before my body forces me to, allows me to make more progress, enjoy more good days and my daily activities more and reduce the frequency and severity of bad days.
Life is busy for all of us, from family life, work and medical appointments, which can make it difficult to find long periods of time to wind down and relax. However, performing relaxing activities, like breathing exercises and restorative yoga, for just 5 minutes has been shown to significantly improve wellbeing and reduce anxiety and stress (5).Therefore, I schedule rest and relaxation “snacks” every couple of hours throughout the day. These small periods of time allow everyone be able to rest regularly during the day, regardless of how busy we are and how many other commitments we have.
Example Rest & Relaxation Snacks
I vary the specific activity I do each time to ensure I get all 7 of the different types of rest. Example activities for the 7 types, which can be done for a few minutes anywhere and at any time of day include:-
Physical – sitting down.
Mental – switch all technology off or, if you’re able to access the outdoors, go outside for fresh air.
Emotional – journalling/brain dump your thoughts on a piece of paper or on your phone for 5 minutes.
Spiritual – pray or read a bible verse.
Creative – play your favourite song.
Sensory – close your eyes and perform a breathing exercise.
Social – spend time alone or message a friend.
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I hope this post is helpful. What helps you rest well? Which of the 7 types of rest are most important to you? Do you have any other tips? I’d love to hear them. Leave me a comment below or message me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or YouTube.