How to rest when you are awake

Sleep blog

Recently I’ve been utterly captivated by the content from the wonderful business and mindset coach, Emily Hodge. She’s agreed to bestow some of her wellbeing wisdom with us here on the Clementine blog – bite-sized insights about sleep, creating space and wellbeing – manageable things we can remember for the year ahead. So watch out for the series. Here’s part one, which is all about not waiting for more sleep.

We want more sleep, so we wait for sleep to get rest. But what about resting whilst we’re awake too?

A wakeful rest is a period of time spent resting our eyes and brain from receiving new information. This might be a few minutes or up to half an hour. Studies have shown that a period of wakeful rest has significant benefits to our memory and how we process information, particularly new information.

This quote from the research particularly stands out for me: “…researchers suspect that during this 10-minute wakeful rest the brain is consolidating the recent memories, a process in which the brain seals experiences into long-term memory. Without this memory consolidation, a person may forget this information, being unable to pull it up at a later point. The bottom line: In a world where we’re bombarded with crazy amounts of new information, the best advice for holding onto these memories is a little peace and quiet.”

There’s such a vast amount of information to process day to day, to the point that we no longer take it in at all, and certainly not necessarily with care. We’re distracted, tired, wired. This means that taking time to rest our brain from information, so we’re not over-processing all the time, is vital not just for our memory but for our mental wellbeing too.

The most common form of wakeful rest you’ll know is meditation (although, technically, if we’re listening to a meditation we’re taking in new information in that moment, but I know I can’t meditate without instruction so let’s pass that detail over right now).

I did a form of meditation using a chant I learnt a few years ago and it helped me no end. I had 15 minutes to myself, went to the bedroom, did the meditation and felt instantly better.

But there’s other ways to get wakeful rest that can help us just as much. Also, you’ll know I’m not a fan of simply prescribing things to do, to feel better, because we all know what we should be doing, we just don’t do it enough or else, we do too much of the thing we’re advised not to really do. So I want you to remember the principle is finding a way you know you can get wakeful rest in future.

So what are other ways to get wakeful rest?

It will depend on your circumstances but here’s some ways:

  • Sit with your eyes closed for 10 minutes making a conscious effort to not take in new information
  • Take a minute whilst you boil the kettle to listen to the noise and notice the steam, without judgement or needing to do anything with the noise
  • When you walk in from a trip or time outside, flop your coat wherever it needs to go, sit on the sofa and don’t actively do anything for a few minutes
  • Put on some white noise on Spotify with your headphones and walk around the room, house or garden for 10 minutes
  • Last but not least, pop the Clementine app on. There are some great ‘Take a Breather’ sessions in the De-Stress section. Try one or two of these at home tucked away in a different room, on the bus or surrounded by nature (or a peaceful patch of yard outside).

The key is to not take anything new in – no information, maybe noise is around you but you’re tuning out. And you’re not actively paying attention to the things you need to do, they’re just there.

Other ways to ‘rest’ your brain which are less passive than those above, but still make us present, include doing a jigsaw, singing and dancing to your favourite song, listening to an instructional meditation and writing without judgement.

Knowing you have the power to get wakeful rest each day is a powerful tool for you to access to remind you of the power of your mind, the power of your motivation to have it, and the power you can achieve by being present, triggering brain re-wiring for improved memory processing.


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