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How to rest: The 7 different types of rest

Did you know that there are seven different types of ‘rest’? And that you may be more in need of one type of rest than the others?

We’ve all heard "you need to get more rest" from a caring friend or relative. Modern life can be very busy and it’s all too easy to stay busy, juggling work and home commitments. When things start to get too much, we all need to have our own personal ways of coping and knowing how to rest can be different for every person and situation.

Ayurveda, India’s traditional science of well-being, recognises that we’re all different, with individual wellbeing needs, due to each of us having a unique set of physical, mental and spiritual characteristics, known as our dosha. Once you understand what dosha combination makes up your Ayurveda constitution, you can start keeping them in balance through the right diet, exercise, and lifestyle and maybe even the right cup of Pukka herbal tea.

If you haven't yet discovered your doshawhy not try our dosha quiz?

We all have different needs as individuals so it makes sense that we may need different amounts of the seven types of rest.

The seven different types of rest include:

Physical rest

This is probably the thing you think of first when you hear the word ‘rest’. This type of rest can be passive (sleeping and napping) or active such as restorative yoga, stretching and a soothing massage. This type of rest is a priority if you are physically exhausted and is especially relevant to vata dosha types, who can find it hard to hold on to energy.

We all know the importance of good sleep, so when insomnia kicks in and you struggle to drift off, or find yourself waking up throughout the night, it can quickly start to affect day-to-day life. Taking steps to get beneficial sleep habits back on track is an important step towards improving mood. So, build time into your evening to settle down properly, perhaps with a good book and a cup of calming herbal tea. Both chamomile and lavender flowers, used in our Night Time blend, have deeply relaxing properties and have been used for centuries to help people feel calm.

A good evening routine can train your brain and body to sleep better, naturally. Visit our Sleep Hub for more resources to support a better night’s rest, including a downloadable sleep diary to help provide clarity.

Mental rest

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious, it’s likely you need to up your levels of mental rest. We are not designed to be ‘on the go’ all the time, always staring at a screen or otherwise, though many professions often require this. It’s vital to schedule short breaks, following recognised guidance that more frequent short breaks are often more helpful than longer breaks less often. So, 5 minutes every hour can be better than 20 minutes every 2 hours. This type of rest is especially relevant to pitta dosha types, who can really burn the candle at both ends and push themselves to the limit.

Ashwagandha is a key adaptogen herb from the Ayurvedic tradition, used in our Inner Peace supplement that can support this type of rest. Adaptogens help the body to ‘adapt’ to stress, by having a rejuvenating and nourishing effect, which helps restore balance in the body.

Regular meditation can also provide mental rest and help us recharge. This ancient practice can take many forms, though it is generally necessary to have at least 5 to 20 minutes to experience an effect. Enjoying a cup of tea as part of a meditation ritual has also been practiced in many traditional cultures. Try our series of short, guided meditations supported by some key herbs.

Sensory rest

Bright lights, computer screens, background noise and multiple conversations can all cause our senses to feel overwhelmed. Intentional moments of sensory deprivation can begin to undo the damage inflicted by our over-stimulating world. A regular digital detox can really help, be it a screen-free day each week or a couple of screen-free hours each day. You can also limit the stress caused by devices by turning off all notifications and removing email access from your phone.

For many of us, this short digital detox can help put the role of technology into perspective and maintain a healthy balance between digital relationships and real life. It also allows time to get outside, enjoy nature, exercise, do creative and mindful activities and connect with friends. All of this can help reduce stress from constant connectivity.

Another idea is eye palming, one of the most relaxing things you can do for your eyes. Rest your elbows comfortably on a table. Then gently cover your eyes with your cupped palms and breathe deeply in the darkness for a few minutes while you rest your eyes.

Creative rest

If you are feeling uninspired or stuck in life, you may be in need of a period of creative rest, to create space for inspiration and to help you feel motivated again. Spending time in nature is a recognised way to reawaken awe and wonder. When we’re immersed in the natural world, we often feel more at peace, with an immediate reduction in pulse and blood pressure [1].

Noticing nature in small, everyday ways such as smelling flowers, watching the sunset and sunrise and watching clouds have been shown to have powerful effects on our wellbeing [2]. So, creative rest is all about making some time and space to find beauty in unexpected places. Beyond finding beauty in nature, we may also find it through the creativity of others. Activities such as looking at paintings, music, theatre, dance and even creative cooking can help reawaken our creative spark.

Emotional rest

It’s important we all have the time and space to freely express our feelings, be ourselves and stop people-pleasing. You might have heard about how journaling can be beneficial to our mental health. The idea behind journaling is to make time to write and use it as a tool for clearing your mind and offloading any worries, which supports emotional rest.

Talking to good friends who are attentive listeners can also help bring about a state of emotional rest. However, talking to a trained therapist may be helpful if particular patterns are coming to light which you feel ready to address. This is especially relevant for kapha dosha types, who have a tendency to hold onto their emotions and can therefore really benefit from some regular ‘emotional management’.

Social rest

This sort of rest can be provided by either connecting with your true friends or taking a total break from socialising. Which of these you feel drawn to depends on your individual needs. We all need regular time to be alone but not lonely, so have a good look at your diary and see how you are fulfilling this need on a weekly basis, perhaps with some longer breaks alone scheduled every few months — such as a yoga retreat or short break alone — to give you some social rest. However, it’s also important to recognise the relationships that revive us and those that exhaust us — both at home and at work.

Spiritual rest

This type of rest is the most profound, recognising we all need to feel a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance and purpose in life. To achieve this, we need to engage in something greater than ourselves. Ayurveda sums this up with the concept of ‘dharma’ (right purpose). What have we been put on this planet to do at this time? So, take some time to find a sense of purpose, tune into your spiritual beliefs, and perhaps choose a volunteering activity that feels meaningful for you.

Why not make yourself a cup of herbal tea and reflect for a few moments on which type of rest you most need in your life right now? There is no one-size-fits-all approach. So, it’s worth investing a little time into exploring what works for you. If you’re not sure where to start, pick just one type of rest from this list and think of some ways you can start to incorporate it into your routine.

If you’d like to learn more, check out Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith who conceptualised and developed the theory of seven types of rest in her book ‘Sacred Rest’. If you want to explore your dosha to get any additional insights, have a go at our dosha quiz?

  1. Sherman, D. K., Hartson, K. A., Binning, K. R., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Taborsky-Barba, S., Tomassetti, S., Nussbaum, A. D., & Cohen, G. L. (2013). Deflecting the trajectory and changing the narrative: How self-affirmation affects academic performance and motivation under identity threat. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(4), 591–618.

  2. Chaudhury, P. and Banerjee, D., 2020. “Recovering with nature”: A review of ecotherapy and implications for the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Public Health, 8, p.604440.

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