The Health Benefits of Downtime
Why We Need To Value Rest, Leisure, and Doing Nothing
We live in a productivity-obsessed culture. Whether at work, home, or even on vacation, we’re constantly doing or trying to achieve something. We place high value on busyness.
There are positive aspects to this way of thinking and living. For example, being busy can make us feel good about ourselves, bringing a sense of purpose and meaning to our lives.
But amid all this doing, we’re missing out on something equally important — the benefits of downtime.
Our brains and bodies need time to rest and repair. And although sleep is vital to our health, it’s not the only type of downtime that we need. Giving our brains and bodies time off when we’re awake is just as important to our health as sleeping.
Time spent in nature, taking a bath or shower, napping, meditation, daydreaming, having a meal with family or friends, or attending a celebration are some examples of how we experience downtime. Whatever way you prefer to integrate non-doing time into your waking hours, research shows that these mental and physical breaks are vital to our health and functioning.
Downtime and Mental Health
The brain is like a sponge—it can only soak up so much at one time. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by life’s to-do list, it’s a good idea to give your brain a rest. When you return to doing, you’ll likely find that you’re more productive after you’ve had some mental downtime.
You may have experienced this already if, while taking a walk outdoors or having a shower, you suddenly come up with a great idea or solution to a problem. Life’s epiphanies often happen when we give the brain the rest and space it needs for them to occur.
This happens because when we aren’t processing information, there are regions of the brain that become more active. One of these is known as the default mode network or DMN. This part of your brain plays an important role when you’re focusing on your internal world, enabling you to develop your sense of self, ethics, and creativity.
When we are not actively learning or doing, the brain also has an opportunity to consolidate information, memorize what’s important, and rehearse newly learned skills. Downtime also replenishes the brain’s attention and motivation, helping to increase our productivity when we return to doing.
Our brains have a natural impulse to be quiet, to restore, and to heal. We must learn to pay attention to this impulse and value time spent on rest and leisure activities that allow us to restore and rejuvenate so that we can be productive and creative when we need to be.
Downtime and Physical Health
Having time away from work, caregiving, or other responsibilities that can be the source of stress is important. Constantly being busy is a fast path to increasing stress levels.
The body needs time to slow down, recover and repair just like the brain does. If we never give it this time, we can experience chronic stress which will have a negative impact on many of the body’s vital systems, including immune, digestive, and cardiovascular. In fact, research shows that even the anticipation of downtime can have a remarkably positive effect on stress and heart rate. If you’re looking for tips on easing stress, we have an easy way to ease stress anytime.
Aches and pains
Many of us spend long hours sitting in front of computer screens or bent over looking at our phones. The cumulative effect of awkward body positioning, stress, and few breaks, has led to huge increases in musculoskeletal pain, headaches, and other health issues related to digital device use.
There are many steps you can take to help ease some of these aches and pains, including integrating micro-breaks and stretches into your workday, lunch time walks, digital downtime, setting work-hour boundaries, and more. The solution lies in making time for downtime.
Your energy is a renewable resource, but you must give it time to renew. It’s worth examining when your energy levels are highest and doing your most demanding daily tasks during that time. When you understand the time of day when you are most productive, you can safeguard that time for deep work and schedule less important tasks for other times. For more info on how to boost energy levels, use our top tips for a natural energy boost.
A note on valuing downtime
Research shows that the way that we view leisure activities can impact our enjoyment of them and thus the benefit we get out of doing them.
We must learn to place value on our so-called non-productive activities, such as attending a friend’s birthday party. People who don’t enjoy pleasure-driven activities are more stressed, anxious, and depressed. So, it’s important to make time for downtime, but it’s equally important to place value on this time and know that it’s key to our happiness and health.
Need help with prioritizing downtime in your life?
At Nature’s Link, we believe that giving your body and brain time to rest and repair is vital to good health. But it isn’t always easy to make more time for doing less. Planning your daily downtime is as important as planning what you’re going to eat or when you’re going to exercise or move. Schedule time with Dr. Kristine Devillier to learn how.
Dr. Devillier is a mind/body coach, board-certified naturopath, and master herbalist. She brings more than 20 years’ experience and a wealth of knowledge about natural health to each consultation — providing practical, easy-to-follow advice on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Dr. Devillier creates a custom-made plan for your life no matter how busy you are and how many obstacles you think you may have.
If you need some guidance on how to prioritize downtime and sleep in your life, give us a call on 337-332-2705 or reach us online for more information. We proudly offer natural health consultations in Breaux Bridge, Lafayette, and the entire Acadiana area.