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Why rest is critical for overall health

Updated: Apr 10

feet up with a cuppa

Rest is a big thing in the world of wellness for very good reason. But while the benefits of purposeful rest for stress reduction and mental wellbeing are widely discussed, the positives for overall health remain less well understood.

So what is purposeful rest and how is it different to sleep?

Isn't it enough that we sleep at night? Do we really need to rest in the day too? Experts say we do and that there's a different kind of rest that takes place when we purposefully rest without going to sleep.

While getting good quality sleep is incredibly important, our nervous systems actually remain fairly active. In contrast, when you're quiet and still but awake, your body begins to relax and move from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system - a.k.a. our rest and digest setting. This allows us to process all sorts of things - we digest our food better, regulate our stress hormones and allow ourselves time to feel our feelings - all vital for physical and mental wellbeing.

Why is it so important that we take rest seriously?

For me, the impact of cortisol reduction is one of the most interesting benefits of accessing our parasympathetic system. Cortisol is released whenever we encounter stressors - which let's face it are basically everywhere in our busy, digital, modern lives. This isn't in itself a bad thing. But when we remain in a heightened state of arousal for long periods, cortisol hangs around our bodies. Cortisol counteracts insulin, meaning we can become insulin resistant when levels are raised over long periods, making us more susceptible to a whole host of health conditions. Insulin resistance is known to be a direct cause of diabetes and heart disease and indirectly contribute to a whole host of other diseases. It sounds like doom mongering, but it's really not.

So you see it's not 'just' your mental health the benefits from slowing down and taking purposeful rest. You might even live longer!

Want to incorporate more rest into your life, why not check out my Mindful Events which all have a focus on rest or gentle, mindful activity.

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