7 types of rest (and how to make them a priority)

by | Feb 18, 2022 | Last updated Feb 18, 2022

At Noom, we’re all about empowering you to work toward your goals, and to work smarter, not harder. One of the smartest ways to achieve your goals is this: get more rest. Rest isn’t just about sleeping. There are many different—and critical—types of rest we all need, and committing to getting them could supercharge your health journey. 

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith—an internal medicine physician who writes about staying healthy in the face of “productivity culture” and overcoming burnout—splits rest into seven categories, and emphasizes how each of these are important in our overall health. Below are the seven types of rest consider if you’re feeling stressed, physically sore, low-energy, or just meh, and some ways you might incorporate more of them into your life. 

1. Physical rest

Physical rest is what’s in order when you and your body are tired from too much waking activity—work, socializing, physical activity, moving around, or even thinking—and not enough downtime. You probably need physical rest if your body feels tired, if you feel like you don’t have the energy you need, or if you’re feeling on edge. Whie rest and sleep aren’t always the same thing, if you’re in need of physical rest then a good nap can go a long way. Conking out isn’t the only way to get physical rest—there’s also such a thing as active physical rest, which can be a great way to reclaim your energy in the middle of the day. In addition to trying to go to bed 30 minutes earlier, consider:

  • A restorative yoga video
  • Guided stretching
  • Self-massage

2. Sensory rest

We undergo sensory stimulation so routinely that it’s become normalized. Does most of your day feel like some combination of gazing at your computer, phone, and TV? A lot of our sensory stimulation these days comes from screens. No matter what you’re doing on which screen, it takes a toll, and our senses need a rest. 

Other sensory fixtures of your daily life can also tire you out, too, such as bright lights, background conversation, or construction going on outside. 

Sensory rest may not always seem like an option, given our busy schedules and the major role those screens play in our lives. But if your eyes hurt, you’ve got a headache, or you’re just feeling wound up or wired, see if you can:

  • Schedule 10-15-minute breaks throughout the day without your phone, computer, or TV, and when you do, try going for a walk or sitting in a different spot
  • Set a timer to remind yourself to close your eyes for one minute every few hours
  • Find places to work, eat, or simply sit without background noise. This could be a different part of your home, a park, or if you can’t find a quiet spot, try earplugs

3. Creative rest

If your day-to-day life involves problem-solving, ideation, discussion, or art, you’re regularly flexing your creativity muscles. A great expenditure, but an expenditure nonetheless—you can feel depleted if you’re constantly using your creative juice and not taking the time to rest and replenish your stores. Creative rest is a powerful resolution because it can give you the strength to continue applying your imagination to the tasks at hand, while also renewing your sense of awe and curiosity about the world. To get the creative rest you need, you might resolve to:

  • Walk around a new neighborhoods. (Even a nearby new setting can be reinvigorating)
  • Find a new author, creator, or other figure whose books or content speak to you, or re-explore one of your favorites
  • Seek out and soak up the beauty of nature at least once a week by walking or sitting around greenery. (Parks totally count)

4. Emotional rest

Do you ever feel like you do quite a bit of listening to the other people in your life, but you’re not sure who’s listening to you? Or maybe you feel like you bend your plans and make concessions to your family and friends, without your point of view being properly considered? Or perhaps you just don’t spend enough time saying what’s on your mind? This can sap your energy, dampen your mood, and generally make you feel not like yourself. As with most people, some emotional rest is likely in order for you. It’s a basic human need. Here are some ways you can get more of it:

  • Surround yourself with positive people who give you energy rather than drain you of it. Seek out those far-away friends over the phone or video-chat. Regular 15-minute catch-ups can be restorative. 
  • Commit to being more open and honest about something that’s been bothering you. Whom are you going to tell about it, and when?
  • Take up a regular journaling practice. Set aside 15 minutes at the same time every day. Getting thoughts down can be quite a reprieve. 

5. Social rest

We all have social obligations, but do some of your social interactions feel just like obligations, and not like a source of joy or positive emotion? If so, you might be experiencing a deficit of social rest. Or, it’s possible that you’re simply spending too much time with others and not enough by yourself, or you’re around people who deplete your energy rather than give you life. To feel more socially rested: 

  • Spend time nurturing relationships that feel most energy-giving
  • Choose social commitments more mindfully by saying “yes” to plans you’re genuinely excited about and “no” to plans that don’t feel enticing
  • Dedicate a few minutes every morning and night to do something for yourself (and only yourself)

6. Mental rest

When you need mental rest, you’re probably overworked—and not necessarily by an employer. Maybe you’ve spent quite a bit of time with the same stressful thoughts bouncing around your mind. Or maybe you’ve endured one too many consecutive days needing to make decisions or solve problems with little to no time for you to just be. The result? You may feel irritable, have a hard time concentrating, and find that you’re forgetting about tasks both small and large. See if you can:

  • Plan 10-15-minute breaks every few hours throughout the day. Set a time and try to hold yourself to it. 
  • Write down any thoughts that are occupying a lot of headspace or keep you awake while you’re trying to fall asleep
  • Schedule “think time” each day, dedicated to processing the situations, thoughts, or decisions that require more mental energy

7. Spiritual rest

Each of us has a deep, internal desire to feel at home in the world and connected to something larger than ourselves. Spiritual rest involves making time and space for feelings of love, connection, and acceptance, which is something our busy schedules might not allow, or we might not always prioritize. To that end, you might:

  • Incorporate short guided meditations into your morning or nighttime routine
  • Pick up some volunteer work that’s meaningful to you. Consider a park conservancy, any kind of shelter, or working with children or the elderly
  • Experiment with a craft like writing, drawing, painting, or photography to let your spirit express itself

The pressure to always do more or work harder is often counterproductive. No matter how well-meaning the effort, it can get in the way of your success when what you really need is to take a step back. The right type of rest can give you back the energy you need to achieve your health goals. And you’ll find that the effects can be wide-ranging: you can be more present in other people’s lives, demonstrate your best at work, glean more enjoyment from day-to-day activities, and just feel better.

If you’re looking to prioritize rest and improve your overall health, check out Noom Weight or Noom Mood today.