What were Sundays like when you were a kid? Whatever you got up to, my guess is that they were slightly more restful than they are today. Now you can shop, go to museums, sign up for family fun days, or binge on box sets. You’re as spoilt for choice on Sunday as you are on Monday to Saturday.
But was making the traditional day of rest just like every other day of the week such a good idea?
Re-inventing your weekend
I really don’t think it was. In fact, I think reclaiming your Day of Rest could do you the power of good. And while we’re at it, let’s re-invent it with a modern twist.
Why? Because having one day a week dedicated to rest is way better for your body-mind than running on empty for 7 days a week and then expecting to totally refill the tank on annual vacations. Here’s what a weekly day of rest could be offering you:
- Re-setting your body clock that’s got out of synch with early starts and late finishes
- Resting your adrenal glands which have been pumping out adrenalin to fuel your hectic pace
- Giving your over-worked mind the chance to download instead of constantly upload
- Getting back in touch with the real you, rather than just putting on the mask that you present to the world as you try to keep all the plates spinning
There are other benefits, but how do these sound to you for starters?
The art and science of relaxation
The thing is, you’ve learned how to tick things off your lengthy to-do list, how to push yourself to achieve goals and how to constantly move onto the next thing on your list without skipping a beat. Even if you’ve never attended a ‘how to be more productive’ course, you’ll have picked up the terminology and cut-and-thrust philosophy just through daily life.
However, you’re unlikely to have learned how to rest properly. And by that I mean you don’t just flop on the sofa, indulge in retail therapy, engage in a hobby or even just sleep in longer.
These may all be helpful to a greater or lesser extent, but they don’t provide the complete mind-body rest that I know is possible from my personal experience of yoga and mindfulness. I was recently thinking back to my time working long days in other people’s companies and remembering the tiredness I experienced: the sort that seems to go right down into the bones and yet still sleeping well is difficult because the mind can’t let go of processing a million things. I wish I’d known then what I know now about specific yoga and mindfulness techniques that induce a state of total relaxation.
Try this at home
If you want to reclaim your day of rest with conscious relaxation, here are the five things you’ll need to get started:
1. Set the intention and make it happen
Decide that you’re going to consciously and deliberately rest. Set aside the time to do this. Even if you can’t manage a whole Sunday, then an hour or two is possible for most people with a bit of forward planning and negotiation with others. Choose your location; ideally somewhere quiet and that already feels peaceful to you, or can be made peaceful. Gather your equipment; for example, a yoga mat or blanket to lie on, non-restrictive clothing, a cover to keep you warm, and guided audio recordings of any of the techniques listed below readily accessible on your smartphone, tablet or laptop (get the mini-guide for easy links).
2. Brain dump
Before you settle in for your relaxation period, make a list of all the things that are on your mind and that may drag your attention away from the here-and-now of rest. Taking 20 minutes to do this, the night before if possible, will free up some mental bandwidth.
3. Try out any of the techniques listed here, using your gut instinct as to what might suit you best right now:
- Mindful movement
- Yoga Nidra
- Body scan
- Yoga which emphases the subtler aspects of the body-mind (more than for exercise or aerobics)
Want to know more about each of these? Download my mini-guide and resources list:
4. Experiment and establish a routine
Once you’ve tried a few of these techniques, reflect on what has given you the deepest sense of rest and relaxation. Build a routine of weekly rest periods into your schedule for the next couple of months. Keep in mind that what’s effective for you right now may not be the same in a few months; and also that it’s a good idea to balance the value of really getting to know a practice with the need to keep things interesting for you.
5. Intention is everything
Even if none of these attract you, or you can’t give yourself to a Day of Rest (or even two hours of rest) then it’s worth remembering these two things:
- The intention with which you do something sets the tone: if you decide to do any action in a restful manner then that’s likely to be one of the rewards you reap.
- Anything you do with complete mental focus on the present moment, and non-judgementally can be profoundly restful. So, if you’re playing a sport on your rest day, then being deeply engrossed in it can bring its own form of relaxation. The one caveat is to beware the inner critic, who can spoil the game for you much more thoroughly than losing ever could.
This is the Modern World
The Day of Rest is an old-fashioned term, but the wisdom it implies seems more relevant than ever in our 24/7 society. You’ve probably already got ‘productivity’ nailed; so I’m inviting you to be as great at ‘relaxing’ – strategically and beneficially. Yes, this will mean you can get more done, but also you can be more yourself, and live the whole of your life more heartfully.
Get the blueprint for your Day of Rest
Remember to sign up above for your mini-guide to plan your own personal Day of Rest. And if you would like a tailored ‘trouble-shooting’ session to increase the quality of your rest, try my programme offering a short burst of support.
Over to you
When have you felt most rested? What do you do to induce that sense of complete relaxation in your mind and body? Leave a comment below with your tip on what you can’t rest without.