Rest on your laurels

In our 24/7, instagrammed, tweet-ridden, hyper-linked, immediate world of NOW…the virtues of rest and quietude have been somewhat sublimated. The Slow movement is pointing us to the value of taking time to do things but the speed-freaks decry such thought as luddite and a balm for the inherently lazy. There is plenty of research though to show that a slower way of living is actually more useful in the end, paradoxically perhaps, more productive. Along that line a new study has shown that taking time to step off the treadmill and just rest is actually a good thing for your mind.

The study involved subjects taking part in two learning tasks that involved memorising series of associated picture pairings. After the first task the subjects were free to rest and think about whatever they wanted to. The subjects then sat the second tests and were also asked what they had used the free time to think about.

The results showed that those who had reflected during their rest on what they had learned in the first test did much better on the second test.

The researchers say that this shows how the brain processes information during rest can influence learning. This is because by letting the mind wander back over previous information the brain is making connections that help them absorb more information later. So in restful contemplation you embed new information into pre-existing knowledge frameworks in turn making new information even easier to integrate.

There is no such thing as nothing. Even nothing is something, and rest is certainly something. So next time you are criticised for your laziness just calmly reassure your accuser that in fact you are engaged in a little knowledge embedding, and even perhaps, suggest they might like to try it.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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