When asked, ‘what do you do when you rest?’ you might say watch TV, browse the Internet, or even do some gardening. Is this really resting though? And how important is it to rest?
More and more of us are becoming aware of how much activity we do in a day, with self-monitoring becoming the norm. As a nation, we are becoming increasingly interested in the concept of rest, with some companies implementing annual leave policies that allow unlimited staff holiday.
Recently the world’s biggest survey of resting habits began. Called the Rest Test, it is hoped that we will get to understand what rest means to us and the purpose it serves. The survey is being carried out by Hubbub – a collective of artists, social scientists, humanities researchers, broadcasters, scientists and mental health experts in residence at Wellcome Collection (London-based charitable foundation investigating the links between art, medicine and life).
Psychologist Claudia Hammond is one of the directors at Hubbub and explains why rest has become such a topic of interest,
“Rest is such a relevant subject because we feel busier than ever, even though we actually have more free time.
“We want to find out why this is the case – and whether we need to approach the concept of rest differently.”
The survey is asking thousands of people around the world how much rest they get, how much they would like and what they think constitutes rest.
In the past, rest may have been synonymous with being lazy, but scientists now believe it is essential for health and well-being. A 2012 paper called ‘rest is not idleness’ explains that when we are at rest, we enter a mode of neural processing and this is necessary for psychosocial development.
Basically, rest provides us with moments of introspection when we can digest information and allow new ideas to surface. Many people contest to this, saying their big ideas come when they are relaxing on a beach or taking a shower.
In theory, we should all have ample opportunity to rest, but two-thirds of us claim to experience anxiety daily – so perhaps we have lost the art of successful rest. Is it coincidence that watching TV has become the dominant form of ‘rest’ for many? Unlikely. Social media may also be at fault, with studies linking its use to increased anxiety and lower self-esteem.
We look forward to hearing the result of the Rest Test survey, Hammond says they cannot predict results,
“We may find that people who have the most rest have the highest sense of well-being. Or we might find the complete opposite.”