• We live in a world of unabating fast pace and noise

  • Michelle Chand explores the value of switching off and resting your mind and body

  • If you are looking for a therapist, you can find one here

There is a mounting body of research claiming that meditation improves health both physical and psychological, and yet so few people engage with the process. Why? In a culture that considers results the only measure of success, the idea of “sitting doing nothing” turns a lot of people off.

What we need to learn to do is change down a gear from how we feel at the end of a tough day so that we start to feel more restful.

Resting is not the same as being asleep, or vegging out in front of the TV. Just because we are sitting still, does not mean we are resting. Nor does being active in the body mean the mind can’t be at rest. This ability to change gear, is the Art of Restfulness.

Restfulness is about bridging the gap between the reality of what your day has done to your mind, body and soul and the peaceful place inside of us. People have many different ways of effecting that first gear change, ranging from punching a pillow whilst swearing, to lying on the floor having a quiet cry...what you need depends on where you start, and it takes practice. We can’t go from a hundred miles an hour to a full stop. Nor should we expect ourselves to be able to. If anything is going to propel us to early wine and mindless TV, it is guilt. We are entitled to feel the way we feel.

What are we afraid of?

What’s so scary about resting? Why do we avoid stillness? Because in the stillness we encounter the feeling of emptiness. We can cope with anything, but most of us will struggle to cope with nothing. When we allow the body and mind to freewheel through a few moments of stillness, all sorts of things may come up that make us uncomfortable. Things that we have been using the ‘busyness’ to keep at bay. But they will pass. And when they do we will encounter emptiness. And instead of it being a place to fear, we find that it is the gateway back to a time when we felt inspired, a space where solutions to problems seem to come from ‘out of the blue’, and a vantage point that gives us a new perspective.

Why is resting so important?

Less than a hundred years ago our working day would most probably have made more demands on our body than on our brain. No surprise then that the combination of our unworked body and overworked mind makes it difficult for us to switch off. As a result, humanity is suffering in a way and to an extent that is unprecedented in our history: record levels of anxiety, depression, insomnia and burnout.

Despite the cost to the individual of not being able to enjoy life - and not knowing why - and to society in terms of lost work hours and demands on the health services, this slide towards a less mentally well populace continues unabated.

We can buy a gadget to tell us how many steps we have taken, how to breath, how to run, and every book shop has rack upon rack of self-help books and yet we remain stuck. Stuck with the mental anguish of not feeling fully engaged with life, despite our best efforts to help ourselves. Learning to rest gives us the opportunity to halt the process of becoming increasingly stressed and potentially ill, and everyone can do it. It is time to rediscover rest; you will be so glad you did.

Further reading

What winter trees can teach us about connection and rest

Why postnatal recovery and rest matter

Let your unconscious mind help you

The basics of mindfulness practice