I grew up with dogs. There were many basset hounds in our family. These wrinkly creatures plod about in a mostly slow, methodical way, never rushing, never exhibiting busyness. Their resting look has a floppy characteristic about it, given the floppiness of their ears. Later there was a golden retriever and a black lab named Shadow.
Back when Shadow was alive, I was still in the corporate world and exhibiting a lot of busyness behaviours. At one point, my family said to me, “Why can’t you just chill like Shadow?” I began to observe Shadow in his resting state, close to the ground, physically comfortable, eyes open and observing, agenda-less. The recommendation to “be more like Shadow” stuck with me until today. I can’t say that I have achieved that level of comfort with resting. I am a work in progress. However, just bringing the image of a resting Shadow to mind, helps me cultivate awareness about the importance of my own rest.
These days, to properly rest both the body and the brain, I believe unplugging is a must. Binging on Netflix gives an illusion of resting, but it is not truly resting. Why? According to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of the book, Rest, watching Netflix is a passive, relaxing activity. It does not qualify as rest because it is passive.
If I take a walk in the woods while listening simultaneously to a podcast, I don’t feel very rested at the end. I feel “productive” because I got some exercise and new knowledge. However, I have not achieved productive rest.
“Achieving the kind of detachment we need for productive rest can’t really be done without regularly disconnecting from our devices.”– Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Quality rest is active. This includes physical activity as well as sleep. During vigorous physical activity, like hiking or swimming, the brain actually rests, even while in a state of mind-wandering. Sleep is considered active rest because the brain does not switch off. It is busy removing toxins, reviewing problems you have been thinking about and integrating events and memories.
Quality rest is intentional. This is key for innovative teams and creative people. Without intentional rest, creativity may decline. For creative minds to flourish, there must be a balance between rest and play. Long work hours do not necessarily produce more value. Often, that approach leads to burnout or at a minimum, decreased wellbeing.
In his book, Pang emphasizes that work and rest are partners. One does not do well without the other. Numerous examples of this can be found in the work-rest habits of elite athletes, performers, innovators and designers.
In the forward to Pang’s book, Rest, Adrianna Huffington provides a short review of the book and summarizes ten key components of making rest in your life a partner to your work. These are: