Even if you regularly clock six-to-eight hours of sleep each night, you might still feel fatigued at certain points throughout the day. The reason? Your body isn’t designed to charge ahead with an open throttle 24-7. You need moments of restoration. Rest, as it turns out, comes in various forms, and each one has its own payoff. So between your long hours at the office and dedicated training sessions, here are the three types of downtime you should schedule into your week.
1. Passive rest
This is the kind of rest that makes goal-driven people feel like they’re wasting time: You basically just sit in quiet contemplation, daydreaming or reflecting on life. But it can have a huge impact on your overall wellbeing.
Researchers at the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California found that these reflective moments, devoid of external stimulation, allow your brain to access a so-called default mode of neural processing, which is critical for helping you develop a greater sense of self-awareness, recall personal memories, make moral judgments, and give your life meaningful context.
The reason passive rest is especially important right now is that the ever-present nature of modern technology—and especially smart phones—keep the default mode largely suppressed. Think about the last time you found yourself standing in a long line at the supermarket: Did you sit quietly with your thoughts, or did you pull out your phone? By occasionally doing the former, you can improve your social-emotional wellbeing and your ability to focus.
If you find it hard to sit passively, try taking a long bath. Or take on some low-demand tasks like painting or journaling.
2. Active rest
While your HIIT workout is undoubtedly good for you, so too are physical hobbies like tennis, golf, or even casual bike rides, which help your brain stay limber. This kind of light-activity rest can boost your mood, help you control stress, and give you a healthier and longer life. A report from researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital found that people who worked at something they enjoyed, whether it was mental or physical, were more likely to develop into “superagers,” the kind of folks who grow old but maintain the cognitive functions of a 20- or 30-year-old.
3. Social rest
Yeah, go ahead: Grab a beer with some friends or colleagues, or schedule a brunch with the crew from your gym. Spending time being a social butterfly isn’t slacking off; it’s a critical way to combat stress, and it provides hormonal and psychological benefits. In fact, a meta-analysis from Utah’s Brigham Young University concluded that a lack of socialization is comparable to notable hazards like smoking and alcohol consumption—which is to say, it takes years off of your life. So if you don't already schedule regular hang sessions into your routine, it's time to fix that. Fitness groups and volunteer organizations are good places to start.