Illusory Follies Andrew Flanagan's Blog

15Feb/150

Rest

I've talked about this in a slightly different form before, but I'm a firm believer in the value of rest. There are obviously many scientific studies that show the effect of rest on both physical and mental well-being with everything from the rebuilding and repair of muscle tissue to the development of synapses in the brain. It's an obvious need that we all have as humans.

However, although most humans get some sort of routine of sleep at night and take some amount of rest from normal work activities, I'd like to suggest that you challenge yourself on how you rest. My hypothesis is that many people can gain a significant amount of improvement specifically in their mental and creative capacity through a more intentional application of rest.

Our world is busy and hectic. I'm sure that humans have said this since the dawn of time. When the first nomadic tribes started using horses instead of just walking, I'm sure there was some naysayer in desert garb who said "Our lives are so BUSY now -- we have to take care of horses now in addition to everything else." I don't mean to suggest that we're unique in having busy and hectic lives. I think that many, if not most cultures have felt similarly in the past. However, I'm suggesting that we attempt to enjoy our life by avoiding both the temptation to muscle our way through it or to run away from it. It doesn't matter what it is that makes us busy or what it is that makes our days feel hectic, we need to set apart time to retract from this without completely giving up.

Sleep

I am a Christian and I do believe that prayer is a powerful and meaningful "retreat" that is, in itself, a form of rest. Christian prayer is the idea of direct communication with a loving God who we claim as our father. However, for Christians or non-Christians alike, I believe that there is an additional rest or retreat that is valuable.

First off, I'm guessing that most readers at this point will make the assumption that I will now talk about "shutting off the cell phone" or "logging off of Facebook" or "turning of the TV". These are all commonly called for activities. The idea that somehow retreating from technology will solve our problems. What I'm suggesting isn't necessarily in conflict with that, but I believe it's far more purposeful. Technology does not make our lives meaningless or boring or depressing or hectic. However, any technology that we use day-in and day-out is something that we should take a break from periodically. If you do not use a computer except on the weekends, I think the idea that you should "take a break" from using it is a little silly.

The purpose of rest and retreat is to allow for a certain sort of healing and recovery. Just as with muscles, we do need an opportunity to not use technology if we expect to be better in using it in the future. We need to identify areas where we can be "mentally muscle-bound". These are areas where we have developed skills or abilities that are perhaps not well balanced or contrasted with other skills that are being ignored.

For whatever reason, our brains have the strange ability to compensate for senses that are unavailable. Although most people will initially stumble and have trouble operating completely in the dark (as if they are totally blind), over time, the other sense can be honed to fill in a large part of the gap that eyesight previously provided. It seems natural to me that the same applies in other skills and abilities. We should ensure that we are not reliant on one "sense" so much that we are helpless when it becomes unavailable. By "sense" here, I mean some piece of technology, some ability, some tool, some technique. If the only way we typically communicate is through writing an email, we should consider taking a break from email in order to hone our ability to communicate in other mediums. If we are used to reading relatively short articles or blurbs of information (such as blog posts and mainstream media articles) we should take a break to focus on our ability to dig deep into lengthy and complex works.

Self-improvement involves constant analysis of where we are. Be aware of what you do often, and what you do infrequently and when possible, take breaks that allow you to hone those skills or those areas where you feel you've fallen out of practice or familiarity.

And when you need it, never think twice about taking a nap. We all need rest.