Cornerstone 4: Rest wholeheartedly

 

This is the most fun, diverse and creative cornerstone.   A part of lifestyle change which really requires investigation, and lots of experiments.  How we rest opens us up to the possibility of who we really are in our most authentic selves.  How we rest well has largely been forgotten in the drive for more productive work hours.  If we’re not careful our time off can also become a drive to compete in sports, music, baking or something else and once again we find ourselves stuck in the productivity trap.  The definition of play is purposeless activity – and how life-giving it can be to do an activity just because it has no clear goal or purpose, simply for pure enjoyment or to allow us to “be”.  Have fun and really try to find out what your personality and family’s personalities like to do to rest well. 

 

The heart of the rest&restore cornerstone is finding the unique places in life where you cannot help but engage with the “other” and see humanity and life in all things.  The places where you find awe and wonder, those feelings which indicate that we have connected deeply with each other, with nature and with something unexplainable – the thing which connects us all.  It is my belief that this is the cornerstone which unites us as a human race, unites us in conversation about how we love to be inspired and guided in life.  We are all unique, but united by this shared experience played out in eight billion different ways.  This experience of rest, restore and ‘being’ has a scientific basis too.  Anything that connects us to each other or ‘the other’ in our lives calms our nervous system, releases oxytocin, the hormone of wellbeing, and puts us into the parasympathetic resting state where we can digest our food, repair our bodies, be creative and let our minds and bodies unwind.     

 

Putting ourselves into the parasympathetic state purposefully can also be done through a number of practices and creative activities such:

  • Ujjayi breath from yoga practice, or pilates practice

  • Mindfulness practice, which has become incredibly popular and very useful in our stressed our lives, backed up by irrefutable evidence of the positive benefits to our mental health

  • Diaphragmatic breathing where we simply lie on our back for more than three minutes and notice breathing deeply into the bottom of our lungs using our diaphragm and feeling our belly rise and fall

  • Reading a novel

  • Playing an instrument or listening to music

  • Reading poetry

  • Painting or drawing a picture

  • Crafting, knitting and making things

  • Cooking and baking

 

Try some of these out, see which ones influence your level of calmness most.  We can also learn so much from each other if we engage our curiosity, even be influenced by other people’s rest and restoration.  I have learnt this first-hand during the Covid-19 pandemic from Anna, our designer at Fast Track Impact.  I spend an afternoon with her every week having a walking meeting, where we catch up with work.  After several months of this arrangement in 2020 I had noticed a pattern in my resting heart rate: I was very chilled out on a Wednesday afternoon and this was lasting well into the evening too.  Although our house is fun and busy, there was little opportunity for down time when juggling home schooling, work and generally keeping everyone fed and resilient!  Anna’s rest&restore superpower is crafting, and this calmness was rubbing off on me as she chatted to me about her various lockdown craft projects.

 

Practical tools to help you design your own changes

Time, time and more time – I know you are thinking “I don’t have time!”.  Making lifestyle changes does not actually take up more of your precious time. I believe it requires three fundamental components:

  • A change of mindset towards the body-health evidence – let’s tackle underlying processes rather than treating symptoms

  • A conscious consideration of your priorities – health coaching an help to identify your priorities

  • Evidence-based habit building – motivation backed by successful habit formation which we discussed in the previous section

 

You’re highly likely to discover that once you start making small changes you’ll have more time, and this feels exponential because you lose the “brain fog” that the Western lifestyle leaves us constantly wading through.  You’ll rest better, therefore be more focused and engaged at home and at work.  You’re likely to find that you get more done in less time because you have a newfound focus and enthusiasm for life.  At some point along the journey the mental narrative will shift from “I don’t have time” to “I will make time” because living well aligns our identity and priorities.  I love this quotation from clinical psychologist and Holocaust survivor Edith Eger:

 

            “I am, I can, I will”

 

She argues from her years of experience in clinical practice and as an Auschwitz survivor that we always have a choice, no matter how impossible our situation is.  If we decide “I am” then the “I can, and I will” follow that choice.  Although she is referring to psychological health, I have found this mantra gives invaluable hope that I can achieve change and gain better health all round. If she can, and I can, then you can too.  Lifestyle change does not need to be hard or unpleasant, it's simply one small step at a time towards whole health.