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The Top 10 Ways to De-stress (and Why You Need Them)

... and whom we most prefer to do them with.

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Alvin Toffler's seminal 1970 book, Future Shock, warned of the dramatic impact rapid advances in technology would have on the individual, family, and human society. Toffler defined "Future Shock" most simply as "too much change in too short a period of time."

In 1899, American physician, philosopher, and educator William James—whom many consider the father of modern psychology—prophetically emphasized the importance of rest in "The Gospel of Relaxation."

Taking time each day to decompress from the stress of modern living is timeless wisdom that is more important today than ever. We all know from living in a digital age that the pace of our lives seems to accelerate in tandem with every advance in computer speed and every update of our smartphones. It seems that our day-to-day lives are increasingly fast-paced.

What impact do these rapid technological changes have on our psychological and physical well-being? What can you do to slow things down in your daily life? A recent global survey of 18,000 people from 134 countries, called "The Rest Test," compiled massive amounts of data on the subjective experience of feeling rested and relaxed.

The Correlation Between Rest, Relaxation, and Well-Being

The Rest Test was designed by Hubbub, an international collective of social scientists, mental-health experts, artists, humanities researchers, broadcasters, and public-engagement professionals in residence at "The Hub" at Wellcome Collection in London. This project was spearheaded by Durham University researchers and undertaken in collaboration with BBC Radio. The results were recently broadcast by the BBC in "The Anatomy of Rest."

The goal of The Rest Test survey was to identify and rank how individuals around the world find peace and quiet in their frenetic lives. The survey was also interested in identifying a correlation between restful activities and a self-reported sense of well-being. Following are the Top 10 Most Restful Activities, based on "The Rest Test" results:

  1. Reading
  2. Being in the natural environment
  3. Being on your own
  4. Listening to music
  5. Doing nothing in particular
  6. Walking
  7. Having a bath or showering
  8. Daydreaming
  9. Watching TV
  10. Meditating or practicing mindfulness

Would you add anything to this list? Interestingly, study participants with the highest well-being scores had actually done something restful for between five and six hours on the day prior to filling out the survey. But there is a caveat: Too much rest seemed to backfire. Those who reported resting for longer than five or six hours began to experience a slight dip in their overall well-being score.

Seeking Restful Activities and Laziness Are Not Synonymous

A full analysis of The Rest Test data was published in September 2016 in The Restless Compendium: Interdisciplinary Investigations of Rest and Its Opposites. The researchers hope these results will increase the general public's understanding of the importance of rest and relaxation in a world that puts a premium on hustle and bustle.

The researchers believe that many people mistakenly associate restful activities with laziness. In fact, this research suggests that taking time to decompress from the stress and chaos of daily activities will optimize your well-being in the short- and long-term. In a statement, principal investigator Felicity Callard stated:

"The survey shows that people’s ability to take rest, and their levels of well-being, are related. We’re delighted that these findings combat a common, moralizing connection between rest and laziness.

"It’s intriguing that the top activities considered restful are frequently done on one’s own. Perhaps it’s not only the total hours resting or working that we need to consider, but the rhythms of our work, rest, and time with and without others.”

Countless empirical studies have found that social connectivity is key to our well-being. It's always going to be a juggling act to find your personal sweet spot of being socially engaged versus completely unplugged from your social network. Hopefully, this list can remind you of simple ways to find inner peace—on a daily basis—in a hectic world.

© 2016 Christopher Bergland. All rights reserved.

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