The Paradox of Rest

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Photo by Sid Leigh on Unsplash

The ability to rest is crucial to our well-being.

We tend to think of resting as a physical act. Lie down on the couch and watch TV all afternoon. Take a 3-hour afternoon nap. Sleep in on the weekends, only to wake up once lunch is being served.

We assume the more physical rest we get, the more relaxed we should be. Does that sound right to you?

I can tell you that doesn’t sound right to me.

If quarantined lockdowns of 2020 have taught me anything, it’s that too much physical rest is detrimental. Millions of people have had more time than ever to rest physically, yet millions of people are more stressed than ever. The numbers are staggering.

Very quickly, I realized this extended downtime wasn’t ideal.

Too much rest can lead to restlessness

What in tarnation is going on here?

Let’s explore the relationship between our minds and our bodies — and in the process, turn our restlessness into rest.

Mind and Body

The relationship between mind and body has been described as separate but intertwined. Some believe mind and body are one and the same, while others believe they are completely separate. There is much debate between these two sides.

For a moment, let’s imagine the mind and the body as separate but intertwined. The body and the mind function on different planes while interacting to create a symbiotic relationship.

How do we combat restlessness by mediating between mind and body?

Rest the Body, Race the Mind

Our attempts to disconnect can backfire on us.

You want to take your mind off something troubling you, whether that’s your job or a failing relationship. You lie in your bed, and where does your mind wander to?

Where you least want it to go.

In your attempt to rest your body, you race your mind. That’s what we like to call an inverse relationship.

There is an inverse relationship between resting your body and resting your mind

The solution? Let’s flip this situation upside down.

Rest the Mind, Race the Body

Your attempt to disconnect your mind by lying down didn’t work out the way you hoped. You say, “screw it, I’m going for a walk/run.”

Once you get your body moving, your mind relaxes into a calm and clear state. This isn’t a groundbreaking discovery. Exercising one’s body is connected to a plethora of mental benefits.

“Strength of mind is exercise, not rest” — Alexander Pope

You went from destructive thoughts to a restful state of mind—all from the simple act of moving (racing) your body.

A Balancing Act

We must be cognizant of the inverse relationship between resting the mind and resting the body. Rest one, and the other races into action.

Consider putting the following mantra into your daily life:

Rest the body, exercise the mind. Rest the mind, exercise the body.

Life is all about balance. Plan your day to rest your body, and other parts of your day to rest your mind.

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