The 7 Types of Rest

4 min
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In our fast-paced society, where much of our success is often defined by how much more we can do, many of us have forgotten that to find our physical and emotional balance, we must also sometimes allow ourselves to do less. 

When was the last time you gave yourself permission to rest? You may think of rest as getting enough shut-eye, but in reality, it goes beyond sleep. Rest is any active or passive behavior that leaves you feeling refreshed, recovered, and recharged.  So when you are still tired after getting enough sleep, and feeling like you are never really able to recharge the batteries, it may not be your slumber (or lack thereof) that’s the issue, but rather, a lack of rest in another area of your life. According to author and physician Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, there are seven types of rest you can address to restore general wellbeing.

Physical Rest

Sleeping is a big part of physical rest. Research shows that to improve quality of sleep, it is best to go to bed at the same time every night, avoid sensory stimulation too close to bedtime, get some daily exercise, and limit caffeine and other excitatory beverages during the day. But there is more to physical rest than just sleep. Anything that helps you slow down enough to downregulate the nervous system and release tension in the body can be considered physical rest. This can include activities like massage, a hot bath, restorative yoga, or Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep). 

Mental Rest

Ever feel like the volume in your mind is always loud? Maybe you have brain fog and even the smallest things irritate you. Perhaps in the evening, you have trouble falling asleep as you ruminate over the events of the day. Give your mind a break by calming yourself and turning your attention inwards. Try a meditation class, or follow an audio session on an app, to reduce the volume in your head and find more space between your thoughts. Regularly repeating an inner resolve, such as, "I allow myself to relax" can also prove useful when you feel the need to ground yourself. Tuning in also means slowing down and switching off your “on” switch. This means finding moments throughout the day where there is also sensory rest

Listen to this quick and easy guided meditation to slow down and relax now!

Sensory Rest

Keep sensory overload at bay by reminding yourself to pause regularly from your computer or other devices, or even highly-stimulatory environments. Set an alarm if you need to. Close your eyes and draw a few intentional breaths before returning to your tasks. Switch off the radio on your way home from work, and disconnect from technology by putting your phone on silent and switching off the television well before bedtime. Keep background noise and light to a minimum in your bedroom to promote a good night's sleep. These small changes will give you a chance to stop focusing too heavily on your external environment, so you have more space to listen to your internal ecosystem and reset from the inside out.

Social Rest

Taking a social rest doesn’t mean withdrawing from the world and going it alone. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Take a closer look at your social circle: Are you surrounding yourself with people who add something to your life and who allow for the real you to shine through? Ask yourself if there is anyone in your immediate environment who leaves you feeling emotionally depleted after you’ve spent time with them. By distancing yourself from “energy vampires”, you will be able to focus on more meaningful friendships and relationships, and allow for more positive energy to enter your life.

Emotional Rest

If you’re someone who often feels undervalued and unappreciated for your kindness, who has a hard time saying 'no', and who loathes confrontation, you could be facing an emotional rest deficit. To address this, don't be afraid to let your feelings out, no holds barred, to the people closest to you (those who give you social rest). Allow and trust others to help you - or hold space for you - when you worry, or when you feel sad, anxious, or upset. Learn to establish healthy boundaries so you can spend less energy trying to be the version of yourself that people expect. This will lead to emotional exhaustion. Instead, focus on what you want and need in your life.

Creative Rest

Have you ever had a brilliant idea while taking a shower, riding a bicycle, or taking a walk? It is an almost impossible task to remain innovative, to come up with ideas, or to solve problems when you are stuck in a routine that stifles creativity and where you are constantly feeling overwhelmed. Fill your creative cup by stepping out of the four walls of your office or your home, and drawing inspiration from the richness and vibrancy of the world you live in. Take a stroll in your favorite park or along the beach, soaking in the air, the light, and the beauty of nature. Make time for art, music, and reading; it's all food for the soul! Consider it to be breathing room for your brain. You will find that when the brain is rested, there is more room for creative juices to flow.

Spiritual Rest

Not knowing our “why” or our purpose can leave us feeling small and alone in the world. If you are a person of faith, consider attending a service regularly, joining a spiritual group to connect with like-minded individuals, or making prayer a regular practice. Spirituality and religion don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and there are other ways to access spiritual rest. For instance, you could join a charitable organization where you can be of service to others一or you can find more time to be and connect with yourself, honoring this need by allowing yourself more moments in which to be fully present. This could take the shape of meditation, journaling, or simply some quiet alone time where you have an opportunity for reflection. Whatever path you choose, giving more meaning to your everyday life can help you meet your spiritual rest quota.

Finding out what type of rest you need more of can simply involve tuning into your senses, or taking a closer look at your lifestyle. If you’re still stuck, however, you can also get a clearer sense of where you may need more rest by taking the Rest Quiz. While life will always have its ups and downs, and we will all experience busy periods where one or two of these areas may have to be temporarily sacrificed from time to time, it’s important to know when to pause and refill that cup, so that you can feel rested and restored in all of the ways your body, mind, and soul need it. 


All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals and other resources that influenced this article: The 7 Types Of Rest That Every Person Needs; Rest: A Health-Related Phenomenon And Concept In Caring Science; Rest Is Not Idleness: Implications Of The Brain’s Default Mode For Human Development And Education; Comparison Of Rest‐Break Interventions During A Mentally Demanding Task

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