There's a big difference between rest and recreation.
Since being busy became fashionable, rest has become something we often forget about. Many of us mistake the concept of rest with lying down on the couch, catching up on the latest Facebook trend with the phones in our faces, catching the next episode of our favorite Netflix series, or taking a walk while we sneak an errand into the trip.
But this is not what rest is at all. It has less to do with your body position than it does with your state of mind. The essence of rest is organizing a time when you are present with yourself; it’s during this moment that you actually meet yourself. You listen to your emotions, you think about your goals and dreams. It’s not easy, and many people find it difficult. Why? There are two common reasons.
1. Staying busy as a way to escape from yourself
Perhaps you choose to be busy because it gives you a feeling of importance. Business is often associated with prestige; rest is not. Maybe you are too afraid to hear yourself, to see what is inside you. Running away from rest could be a way of running away from yourself.
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2. Being unable to set boundaries
Perhaps you don’t have time to be alone because you allow others to plan your time. Barbara, a former coworker, could not refuse when friends needed something from her. She was always ready to help, listen, or do something for others. As a result, when she was finally alone, she was so tired she fell asleep immediately. If you want to start to rest, you need to set a time that will belong only to you, when no one else will make claims on your time.
Rest is a time for reflection, which does not mean that you have to sit and do nothing. Some people relax by riding a bike, swimming, or spending time talking with friends. The effect should be greater joy, a feeling of being rested and relaxed, and having more strength and will to live.
Rest and recreation are two different things
Only when your body and mind are rested can you truly enjoy life and recreation. Recreation is different from rest; it is the time when you do things that bring you joy. When you are well rested, more things make you happy. Even small things can delight you. But most of all, if you are present with yourself through rest, you know what will be the best entertainment for you at that particular time.
By contrast, when you are tired, even the activities that once brought you joy are no longer attractive. Your body and mind need more and stronger incentives to feel anything at all. Sometimes you choose activities that really don’t make you feel happy, like eating when you are already full. If you are not resting, you are not with yourself, and you don’t know what will bring you the greatest joy at this moment.
For many of us, rest is something to be re-learned. Take the first step today and plan time in your calendar (it could be as little as 30 minutes — you have to start somewhere) that is just for rest. When the time comes, try to listen to yourself. Don’t worry if it feels strange in the beginning. Maybe this is a new thing for you, and you have to get used to it. When the initial discomfort has passed, start asking yourself different questions, such as:
What makes me happy?
What exciting thing will I do tomorrow?
What are my dreams?
If someone asked me about what I want the most, what would I answer?
Listen to yourself; the answers may surprise you.
This article was originally published in the Polish Edition of Aleteia.