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Why we need to stop being so busy and learn to rest! How to Find Respite in the Modern Age

Claudia Hammond is an award-winning broadcaster, psychology lecturer and author of The Art of Rest. She is the presenter of All in the Mind on BBC Radio 4 which covers psychology, neuroscience & mental health and the weekly global health show Health Check on BBC World Service. Claudia writes a regular column on medical myths for BBC Future.

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Today busyness has become a badge of honour. We want to say we’re busy, yet at the same time, we feel exhausted. Instead, we should start taking rest seriously as a method of self-care and this book can help us to work out how.

For many of us, busyness has become a badge of honour, but rest is not a luxury: it’s vital to our well-being.

Based on the results of ‘The Rest Test’ – the largest global survey on rest ever undertaken – The Art of Rest explores the science behind why each activity works and offers a prescription for exactly what you should do to make sure you’re getting the rest you need.

The author Claudia Hammond collaborated on – ‘The Rest Test’ – the largest global survey into rest ever undertaken, which was completed by 18,000 people across 135 different countries. Much of value has been written about sleep, but rest is different; it is how we unwind, calm our minds and recharge our bodies. And, as the survey revealed, how much rest you get is directly linked to your sense of well-being.

Counting down through the top ten activities which people find most restful, Hammond explains in the book why rest matters, examines the science behind the results to establish what really works and offers a roadmap for a new, more restful and balanced life.

According to The Rest Test global survey, the most popular ways people rest are:

1) Reading: The unconscious ability to speed up and slow down the pace of our reading, to linger over the good bits or skip over the dull passages helps to make reading so absorbing and relaxing, according to Claudia Hammond. And, like music, it’s all about reading what you enjoy most.

2) Spending time in nature: Restoration theory is a psychological explanation of why spending time in nature is restful. The more repetition there is in a landscape, the more we enjoy it. Researchers have also found people feel most rested when they are in nature for at least 30 minutes.

3) Being alone: Even extroverts rated time spent alone as more restful than time spent with other people even if they were less drawn to solitude than introverts.

4) Listening to music: The key to this is being able to select the music you listen to. Teenagers are best at using music successfully to improve their moods availing of a wider variety of music.

5) Doing nothing in particular: 10 per cent of respondents said they find rest of any kind so difficult as it made them feel guilty. With the so-called attention economy drawing us in 24/7, maybe simply lying on the couch after a busy day is more important than you think.

6) Having a good walk: 38 per cent of respondents selected walking as one of their top three restful activities. Another 16 per cent choose exercise and eight per cent said that running is restful.

7) Enjoying a hot bath: The benefits of bathing go back to Ancient Rome where public baths were a popular form of relaxation. Nowadays, hot baths are more of a private pleasure, except of course in luxurious spas. A hot bath an hour or two before bedtime lowers body temperature to induce sleepiness.

8) Daydreaming: Scientists often use the term mind wandering rather than daydreaming, describing it as the brain’s natural state. Often maligned (especially by teachers) daydreaming is now considered important for creativity, problem-solving and planning.

9) Watching TV: More women than men choose watching TV as one of their top three restful activities.

10) Mindfulness: It gives people an opportunity to quieten their minds and relax their bodies but perhaps its benefit also lies in the decision to put uninterrupted time aside for rest.

Personally, I know for me being alone is my restful time and I practice it daily. What’s yours?

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

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    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

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