Do you ever struggle with the concept of Sunday rest? Our faith commands us to “Keep holy the Sabbath” with worship and restorative rest, but it’s hard to know what “rest” even means.
“Sunday rest” has been interpreted in so many different ways over the years. Maybe we heard our grandparents talk about how “back in their day” they weren’t allowed to play sports or go out to eat on Sundays.
Nowadays, it’s common to do both of these things on Sunday. But we’re still called to make Sunday a day of rest. Yet what does “Sabbath rest” actually look like in today’s world?
I’ve given it some thought, and I wonder if maybe we are approaching the idea of rest in the wrong way. Activities that look “restful” at face value may actually make us more stressed. Lying on the couch for hours watching TV or scrolling social media might look restful, but actually they make us feel even more restless and harried.
Recently I read about what it means to really rest, and it made so much sense. Here’s an excerpt:
… Rest is a physiological state during which your innate fight-or-flight stress response, or sympathetic nervous system, subsides in favor of a more relaxed condition. Your heart rate and blood pressure come down, and your shoulders usually follow. Psychologically, rest is considered a shift from deliberate and effortful thinking … to a more passive state, sometimes characterized by mind-wandering or zoning out.
There are a few ingredients that are essential to any truly restful activity: You aren’t exerting self-control … You aren’t consciously thinking about your work or other issues that may be weighing on you … You aren’t disrupting your ability to fall and remain asleep, which is the ultimate form of rest.
Some of this might sound familiar if you’ve read Josef Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture. In it, Pieper encourages us to spend our free time in an intentional, reflective way.
This kind of leisure is truly restorative and brings us back to our work with renewed energy and verve. But more importantly, it helps us enjoy our lives and participate in the peaceful rest God wants for us.
It turns out a very common and popular hobby is one of the best things you can do to really rest. It combines several leisurely activities into one. And best of all, it’s a lot of fun!
Any guesses? The answer might take you by surprise—walking in the forest with your friends.
What does a group hike have to do with rest? You might be wondering. But it makes sense when you consider that a forest walk with friends includes 3 of the most restorative leisure activities.
1Spending time with friends
One of the best ways to rest is to spend time with friends. Social connections actually make our bodies feel more relaxed and peaceful.
2Enjoying time in nature
Immersing ourselves in nature is one of the best ways to feel relaxed, so much so that doctors are prescribing “forest bathing” to benefit patients’ physical and mental health.
3Going for a walk
Walking is a low-impact exercise, yes, but more importantly, it’s a truly restful and restorative activity. It’s actually shown to improve creative thinking and has a positive effect on everything from your energy levels to your mood to your sleep quality.
So you see that a great way to truly get your Sunday rest is to go on group hikes (or “forest walks with friends” if “group hikes” sounds too intense).
I tried it out for myself last Sunday afternoon. My husband and I took our kids to meet up with another family at a local forest preserve for a walk and some exploring.
It was worth the hype: We all felt so refreshed afterward! The kids seemed to think so, too. One of our kids said at bedtime, “Wasn’t this the best Sunday ever?”
We’ll be making Sunday afternoon hikes a regular habit for our family. Hope you’ll join us and enjoy some restorative time outdoors with your friends and family, too!