When thinking of rest, most people automatically envision sleep. But rest actually involves more. Everyone also needs mental, physical and emotional rest. For example, taking a regularly scheduled vacation is a form of rest that provides a change of pace, environment and activity, allowing mind and body to rest and recover.

In addition to daily or nightly rest, God instituted a weekly rest during creation. Humanity was created with an innate need for weekly rest, for which God gifted humanity with the Sabbath—one day in seven to cease labor and focus on rest, worship and relationships.

Medical research reveals that God has had it right. A Washington Post article titled “Sabbath Rest Good for the Body and Soul” (March 5, 2009) states: “In a world accumulating points by billable hours, full patient schedules, number of hours worked, promotions received, square feet of houses owned, number of cars in garages, number of shares of stocks owned, keeping the Sabbath—resting—helps us stay healthy and whole.

“Medical science has demonstrated that the effects of rest are significant, indicating the great role that rest can play in our physical and emotional well-being. Lack of rest and relaxation is associated with inattentiveness, inability to concentrate, impulsivity, moodiness, learning difficulties and health problems.

“Rest, quiet time, and meditation have been shown to enhance responses in the brainstem, that part of the brain that controls significant aspects of bodily functioning such as respiration, heart rate and blood pressure. Quiet and meditation decrease cortisol levels (substances that are increased in times of stress) and respiratory rates, increase serum protein levels and decrease blood pressure.”

When I lived in Florida it was easy to get to the beautiful beaches. There I would lounge while feeling the sand between my toes, the ocean breeze on my face and the sun warming my skin. I closed my eyes, listened to the sound of the surf and the seagulls, breathed in the fresh sea air and totally relaxed. Ahhh! I could practically feel my blood pressure going down! Those times were my personal rest therapy sessions. I didn’t have to be distracted by the numerous concerns that normally demand my attention.

After my mini breaks I always felt refreshed, relaxed and ready to face the next day. Experiences like this can be replicated by immersing yourself in your garden, walking in the countryside, spending a day at the lake, reading a good book or getting a massage. The options are as wide as your imagination and can be solitary or social.

The most important (but often least valued) means of obtaining rest is sleep. Some people brag about getting by with as little as two to four hours of sleep each night, claiming that it does not negatively impact their productivity. This practice is sometimes validated by expressing a desire to emulate it. However, on average, adults require between six to nine hours of sleep daily to be at their best.

Many people need to set an alarm to get up every morning, but punctuality for going to bed can be just as important. Pick a time for shutting down every night and stick to it–even on weekends. Your body needs routine.

The biggest key to rest is making time for it! We need to give ourselves permission to take time out and make rest a top priority. Take short relaxation breaks often by stopping and doing nothing from time to time. Give yourself room to “simply be.”

The first letter of the CREATION Health system is “C”, for Choice. So make the choice today to get some rest and change your life for the better.

Guest author Juliet Stoddart is associate wellness coordinator at Shawnee Mission Medical Center.

Shawnee Mission offers a series of lifestyle transformation classes using the CREATION Health principles. For information visit ShawneeMission.org/creationhealth