We all know the basics of getting enough rest: proper sleep, less screen time, more relaxation. But in a world so driven by distraction and hustle, the idea of ‘doing nothing’ (much less doing nothing every day) can be daunting.
Luckily, there are many ways to rest that don’t involve sleeping or vegging out. You can – and should – sometimes rest without ‘doing nothing.’
If you struggle with totally zoning out, explore these active forms of rest.
The Myth of ‘Doing Nothing’
When was the last time you just did nothing? Most people would say the day they binged all of Bridgerton or spent four hours on the couch scrolling through TikTok. Newsflash: That doesn’t count.
When we’re watching Netflix, scrolling through Instagram, or even reading a book, our brains are still working to digest content. We’re not truly resting, just distracting ourselves. And while these activities do make us happy and help us unwind, they shouldn’t be the only kind of relaxation in your self-care routine.
The same goes for sleeping. If the only time you’re resting is when you lay your head down to sleep at night, you’re missing out. And when you aren’t resting throughout the day, it can be difficult to ‘turn your brain off’ at bedtime. 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 resting your body is only one of them. There are plenty of ways to rest that don’t involve sleep or just ‘doing nothing.’
Why We Struggle with ‘Doing Nothing’
Doing nothing – truly doing nothing – is a great way to rest, but it’s hard! We live in a world full of distraction. Many people (myself included!) have a hard time settling into comfortable boredom.
That’s why some of my favorite ways to rest are active, not passive. Instead of vegging out, I use a simple activity to recenter and relax.
How to Tell if You Need More Rest
Of course, you can’t substitute sleep with restful activity. There are many types of rest (seven, to be exact!), and a great self-care routine involves a little bit of each of them.
Some signs you might not be getting enough rest:
- You have a hard time focusing for extended periods of time.
- You have an irregular sleep schedule. This can include sleeping too much or sleeping in too late.
- You feel like your mind is always racing, to the point where you struggle to fall asleep at night.
- Your eating habits are irregular. You might eat out of boredom or forget to eat for long periods of time.
- You’re often sick, achey, or physically exhausted.
If you experience any of these, you probably need more rest! The question is, which type are you lacking?
The 7 Types of Rest
There are actually seven types of rest, and all of us need a little bit of each type. They are:
- PHYSICAL: This is what most of us think of when we think of rest. You can get physical rest in two ways: passively (meaning sleep) and actively — through restorative practices like yoga, getting a massage, or stretching.
- MENTAL: You know that feeling after a long day of Zoom meetings where you’re exhausted but not exactly sleepy? That’s a surefire sign you need mental rest. Take a break from your computer, grab a snack, and zone out 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, 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. Also, try therapy!
- 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, like music and podcasts. Difficult, I know, but they also contribute to sensory overload.
You may find that you need more of certain types of rest than others. (Looking at you, fellow introverts! Get some social rest!) Take some time to try the different types of rest, see which feel most refreshing to you, and slowly work them into your self-care routine.
How to Find 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 knitting 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 Activities to Try
Try these activities as you experiment with different types of rest:
- Take a walk — This one is my favorite! 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 rest while still getting something done. Pop on a face mask, give yourself a massage, or treat yourself to a scrub.
- Pick up a new craft — People who knit, crochet, and embroider 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. Just pick up your project and zone out for a bit.
- Spend time with your pet — If ‘doing nothing’ at home makes you feel lonely, spend some intentional time with your pet. Play fetch. Snuggle them while they nap. Hell, give your dog a massage! 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 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. Just don’t overdo it!
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!
If you’re working on your self-care routine, come join the Balanced, Thriving, & Well Community on Facebook or check out the website. We’re always talking about new ways to practice self-care and incorporate rest into our busy schedules. For more self-care tips and advice, follow me over on Instagram.
About The Author
Livia offers a fresh approach for self-care and teaches that it’s never too expensive, time consuming, or solely long bubble baths surrounded by candles. She is on a mission to help high-achieving female entrepreneurs redefine self-care on their terms, find calm, and live intentionally so that they can live a content and slow life free of overwhelm.