Choosing Intentional Rest

As someone who has been in education for over 20 years, spring break has always meant having time to rest, as well as time to travel and visit family. This year, however, the “resting” has taken on a new meaning for me. In the past, rest was wasting time in front of the TV or browsing the Internet or even taking a nap. This spring break, my plan is to be more intentional with resting.

I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but hear me out! Some of the things that are most valuable to me are the times that I spent singing as a child and at times as an adult. The act of creating music was invigorating while at the same time it was restful because it allowed me to share a part of myself with whoever was around – even if it was only me hearing it! Some of the other creative outlets that provided me with intentional rest were painting and writing poetry.

Why is it that we so easily let go of the things that make us who we are? I know I’m not the only one who has a creative side that oftentimes gets buried because we are so busy with other things. I was talking with a colleague about our plans for spring break. When he told me that he was planning to spend time out in the garden, it got me thinking about how important those little things are to us. His eyes got a little twinkle in them and his body posture change slightly as he discussed the desire to work in the yard and to do that manual labor that can seem mindless but is so therapeutic.

Resting with purpose?

What do I mean by intentional rest and how do I propose to achieve it? Intentional rest is the deliberate choice to remove yourself from the rat race of humanity. It is choosing to take care of one’s Self by feeding the inner child if you will, that part of us that longs for simplicity and calm. It is sacrificing time that we sometimes devote to mindless activity, such as watching TV, browsing the Internet, boredom napping (not that we don’t occasionally need to nap), etc., and devoting that time to reading, writing, painting, gardening, playing with your child, playing with your dog – activities that stimulate the creative areas of your brain. Intentional rest also includes times of solitude for meditation, sitting and enjoying a sunset, and watching the birds flitting around your backyard. The key is to feed your spirit!

Intentional rest is the deliberate choice to remove yourself from the rat race of humanity … and devoting that time to activities that stimulate the creative areas of your brain. The key is to feed your spirit!

The first step in intentional rest is to make the decision that you will set aside time to do an activity you love doing. Is your physical and/or mental health worth taking time to do something that you love? Talk with those who depend on you to let them know that you’re going to be doing this. However, don’t let them talk you out of it! If they truly love you, they will welcome the opportunity to help you. (Don’t forget that you will need to do the same for them!)

The second step is to choose the activity that you’re going to focus on. Remember that this is to help you to reconnect with yourself and to find that inner peace, and not to be in competition with others. If you’re going to garden, do it because you love it, not because you’re going to win “yard of the month”! This activity has to make you feel alive and not just be something to occupy time. If the benefit is creation of a new art piece for your home, a poem for your significant other, beautiful landscaping for the house, or a beautiful new song to sing your child to sleep with, that is just icing on the cake! It’s the process that’s important, not the product or result.

The third and most vital step is to follow through! How many of us have art supplies laying in a drawer? How many of us started new plants and they’ve died in the pot before they could be planted? How often do we let life sidetrack us from intentional rest? Resolve to choose differently today!

Let me leave you with this caveat: be careful with whom you share your decision to be intentional in your rest. There are many people who are ready to rain on not only your parade, but on every minute of your life! If there is pushback from your significant other, work out the details and find a way to make time for yourself and allow them to have time for themselves as well.

My spring break is starting and so is my new resolve to rest intentionally. I hope you will join me in the endeavor to feed our spirits which will in turn affect the world around us!

photo credit: Kenneth_Fleming, cc.

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MARK MADDY lives in Edmond, OK, and is a psychology professor at the University of Central Oklahoma.