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Better Health Through Rest

We all want better health. Research shows better health is achieved through rest.

woman standing near window during daytime

Most parents are exhausted from busy lives full of work, rides, household chores and everything kids. Most of us want better health but don’t have time to find it through rest. “How are you?” We ask one another. “Busy,” is the common reply. Imagine answering instead, “Well and rested.”

How rested are you, really? Do you need to find better health through rest? Take the Quiz to find out.

Rest Quiz

____ In the past four weeks I’ve enjoyed four days off that were care-free with minimal work around the house.

____ This last week I’ve had five nights of 7–8 hours of sleep.

____ I enjoy a purpose-driven pause on a regular/daily basis.

____ In the last six months, I took a restorative day or weekend away.

____ Four evenings last week, I enjoyed no out-of-the-home obligations.

____ I took all my vacation time last year.

Total ____

If you scored:

  • 0–3: You are running on the fumes of an empty tank.
  • 4: You are familiar with the rejuvenating aspects of rest and renewal, but gaps remain.
  • 5–6: The life-giving rhythms of rest are established in your life.

“We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much, we don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Each year, we traditionally set resolutions and goals to help us develop healthy habits that improve our lives and relationships. Yet, food and fitness are merely symptomatic of deeper issues.

We know how to run hard. But we don’t know how to rest well.

Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for ourselves and our families is to take a nap. And regularly get to bed on time. 

Better Health Through Rest is Biblical

While rest is the missing piece in our hurried and harried schedules, rest is the first thing in Scripture that God blessed. Rest is an action God tells us to weave into our lives. Without recovery, we lose joy, productivity falls, creativity dries up, and satisfaction with life morphs into discouragement.

When we are well rested, joy returns, relationships flourish, productivity is optimized, and troublesome medical conditions diminish. Our unhealthy habits mask a lack of restoration to our bodies and souls that is only found in a balance of work and transformational recovery. When we are eating junk food, sleeping poorly, feeling sickly, addicted, and avoiding exercise, we are medicating our need for rest with all the wrong medicines.

But in a culture that values a strong work ethic and superhuman productivity, we can feel guilty about our need for rest. The result is that we lean on entertainment and escape as a substitute escape for rest, only to continue feeling depleted.

I’ll get seven hours sleep a night, but after breakfast, I’ll have an hour just resting, to recover. In Spain they all have siestas, even businessmen. ~Joshua Anthony

God knows what we need and he provided life-giving rhythms of work and rest. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done, (Genesis 2:2–3 NIV).

Better Health Through Sleep 

Are you getting enough sleep? Adults require eight to nine hours daily. Less than seven hours of sleep has an immediate and negative impact on our body. Chronic deficits sabotage health and shorten our life.

Babies to one-year-olds: 12 to 15 hours

One to three-year-olds: 12 to 14 hours

Four to six-year-olds: 10 to 12 hours

Seven to 12-year-olds: 10 to 11 hours

Teens through adult: 8 to 9 hours

For better sleep,

  • One to two hours prior to bed, turn off all media. TV, movies, and computers stimulate the brain, making it harder to fall asleep. Use the period just before bed to play board and card games, read, and bathe.
  • Balance blood sugar with a bedtime snack that includes protein, fat, and carbohydrates. This could be a half a tuna sandwich, peanut butter on a banana, almonds and raisins, or hummus and crackers.

With adequate sleep, life looks better, we make smarter decisions, and we hear the Lord’s voice clearer. Sleep rejuvenates us.

Better Health Through Solitude

Do you regularly come away from daily pressures? If we don’t come apart into peace, we will come apart. Unravel. So much demands our attention, drains our energy, and steals our time. Refuel and refill through intentional time with captivating  interests and people who are life-giving. Restore your soul for an hour daily, with a half day monthly, and through a full day retreat quarterly.

Better Health Through Stillness 

Disconnect from distractions to meet with God. Study Scripture, and listen carefully to what God has for you each day. God is always speaking. When we are still, we create an opportunity to listen. Stillness refocuses us.

Better Health Through Sabbath 

“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed,” (Exodus 23:12 NIV).

Sabbath is doing that which refreshes you each week. Sometimes the most valuable respite is a nap. Other weeks, refreshment comes from physical activity, time in a hobby, or building relationships. Our refreshment is vital to health and wellbeing.  Sabbath refreshes us.

“Rest until you feel like playing, then play until you feel like resting, period. Never do anything else.” ~ Martha Beck

When rested, we are pleasant to be with, we sleep better, our weight and health thrive. When rest is a regular rhythm in our lives, our bodies are strengthened and naturally able to resolve pesky health concerns from frequent illness to high blood pressure.

With Better Health Through Rest Comes Joy

Positive change is available and easy to begin. Here are rhythms of rest Brenda Jank, founder of Run Hard. Rest Well., says you can implement right now.

1) Know your mission for the season of life you are now living. Measure what you say yes to against your mission. Give a hard pass to activities that do not align.

2) When another need or opportunity arises, reply, “Let me get back to you.” Then pray. Listen carefully. A yes demands a no to something else. If you are living with little margin, adding to your stress only increases the levels of dangerous cortisol in your system.

3) Daily, schedule quiet time. Pray and reading Scripture.

4) Refresh your soul. Weekly, schedule a half day to do what refreshes your soul.

5) Get away. Monthly or quarterly, plan a day away.

6) Schedule sleep. Arrange to regularly get eight hours of nightly sleep.

Better Health Through Rest That Works

The call and quality of our life depends on purposeful and regular rhythms of rest. Jesus routinely went to a quiet place to be with God and pray. On the Sea of Galilee, Jesus felt so weary he fell asleep in the bottom of the boat and not even a storm woke him, (Luke 8:22–24).

There is no reason to feel guilty about our need for rest after periods of working hard. Guilt is a reminder to make different choices when we do something immoral, unethical, or sinful. However, our bodies are made, created, and hard-wired to work hard and to recover through regular rhythms of rest. Guilt around self-care is misplaced.

Starting today, rest your way to better health, productivity, creativity, and joy. With regular recovery, our satisfaction with life becomes tangible.

Resources

For more about restorative wellness through the rhythms of rest, see Vantage Point, a workbook for individuals and groups.

For rest-related resources, visit RunHardRestWell.com.

Refresh your spirit with these good books, Homeless for the Holidays, and Chasing Sunrise by P.S. Wells.

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Meet PeggySue

We’ve heard of soccer moms and stage mothers. I’m a writer who trailers my kids and horses across the nation. My Apple computer, fondly christened MacBeth, is the essential I bring along.