Last November in the UK an online survey called The Rest Test was launched. The idea behind it was to find out whether we are getting enough rest and what actually makes us feel rested. In the intense and constantly connected world we live in, rest can be hard to come by. If you’re one of the many millions of people in the UK who feels constantly tired and drained then you probably know this all too well. Sometimes even sleep or a day off doesn’t make a difference to how rested we feel. So, what did the results tell us?
The survey says…
In total 18,000 people from 134 countries took part in the test, providing a pretty large sample. According to the results of The Rest Test only 31.6% of us feel like we are getting enough rest. Just over two thirds of those who took part in the survey said they felt like they needed more rest. Around a third of people thought that they needed more rest than the average person. Only around 10% of people said they felt like they needed less rest than the average person. These results perhaps won’t come as a surprise to many people as we are increasingly spending more time working and less winding down.
What makes you feel rested?
When asked how much they had rested the previous day, those who took part in the survey estimated an average of around three hours. They could define resting in any way that they felt fit. For some people, resting was an activity that was carried out while still and silent. For others, it was something that exhausted them, such as physical exercise. What was surprising for researchers was that, when people were asked to rank activities in order of restfulness, those that came out top were those often carried out alone.
Do we just need to be alone?
The top activities in terms of restfulness included reading, walking, doing nothing in particular and being in the natural environment. According to the survey, it’s those activities that are often done alone that make use feel the most rested. In fact, ‘spending time alone’ was one of the top three restful activities. So, could it be that to feel rested we just need a break from other people? Interestingly, this seemed to apply to everyone, whether introvert or extrovert.
Why don’t we rest more?
The results of the survey produced a few rather disturbing implications about why we don’t take more rest time. Top among them was how bad we feel for doing it. Almost 9% of those who took The Rest Test said that the words they most associated with rest were “guilty” or even “stress-inducing.” This would seem to indicate that taking time out to rest can make us worry about whether the time would be better spent. It’s a symptom of modern society that we place more value on time spent producing tangible results, such as money or promotion, than we do on down time. According to Prof Felicity Callard, director of Hubbub:
We really need to challenge the assumption that if you take more rest, you are more lazy. The fact that people who are more rested seem to have better well-being is an endorsement for the need for the rest.
So, does rest really work?
The Rest Test results also produced a well-being score based on how many hours of rest were enjoyed the day before. Unsurprisingly, those who had no rest at all had the lowest well-being score. However, there does seem to be a peak. 5-6 hours of rest produced the highest well-being score while with 7-8 or 9-10 hours of rest, the well-being score started to drop.
What does rest mean to you?
Rest is something quite subjective – you may find reading makes you feel rested or you might get the same feeling from going for a run. Either way it’s important to find the time to include periods of rest in your working week, for both physical and mental health. It may not be feasible to lie down and read at lunchtime but you could go for a walk or take a yoga class. Make sure that you really do disconnect from work at the weekends and take at least half a day of each week to completely lose track of time. Rest may not seem like a productive use of time when you’re doing it. However, taking time out to switch off and refresh could make you twice as focused and happy in the long run.