Take a Break: The Importance of Rest Days

Top view of a messy bed with a white pillow with blankets.

The dog days of summer are firmly upon us, which means you might feel like sprawling in the shade of a cool porch — or idling in an inner tube — doing a lot of nothing, yourself. 

And it turns out, giving yourself an occasional break may be beneficial to both your physical and mental health. In honor of  National Lazy Day on August 10th, we’re here to share some of why and how. 

Increased Creativity

Though we’re socially programmed to go-go-go, it’s possible that taking a moment to stop may actually improve our mental sharpness.

Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time explains to CNN why this is so: 

“Neuroscience is finding that when we are idle, in leisure, our brains are most active. The Default Mode Network [DMN] lights up, which, like airport hubs, connects parts of our brain that don’t typically communicate. So a stray thought, a random memory, an image can combine in novel ways to produce novel ideas.” 

As a result, as Scientific American explains, downtime rather than hyper-productivity actually encourages productivity and creativity in the brain. So while you’re busy “doing nothing,” your DMN is doing a lot that will help you do even more. 

Extended Longevity

Taking a mental break may not only make you more innovative in your thinking — it might allow you to do it for a lot longer, too. 

Though it may seem counterintuitive, a 2019 study published in Nature indicates that a downgrade of neural excitement may actually be the key to a longer lifespan. 

“There’s the idea that you want to keep your brain active in later life,” Michael McConnell, a neuroscientist at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development told The Washington Post. “The thing that is super unexpected is … limiting neural activity is a good thing in healthy aging.” Though it’s important to stay engaged and active, the study indicates that trying too hard may not work in your favor. 

Improved Performance

Rest and relaxation also do a body good. Though keeping physically active is a great way to maintain heart, lung, bone, and muscle health, the time you spend resting can also help make you stronger. During rest, Michigan State University Extension advises, “The body is allowed to adapt to the stress associated with exercise, replenishes muscle glycogen (energy stores) and provides time for the body tissue to repair.” 

Taking a periodic physical break can also help by:

  • Reducing the risk of injury
  • Improving sleep
  • Preventing fatigue and burnout
  • Increasing performance

Whether for your mind, your body, or both, “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice,” essayist Tim Kreider reminds us in The New York Times. Rather, “it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.” 

So while we encourage and support your physical and mental activity most days, we at LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes will be pulling up our pajamas and piling up the pillows for at least one Lazy Day in August (on the 10th or otherwise) for our mental and physical health too.

Learn more about Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. To learn more about our services and facilities at Stokes, visit our website or call (336) 593-2831.