Integrative Nutrition Blog

In a Busy World, the Virtue of Doing Nothing

January 14, 2013

The daily grind of modern life can be exhausting: working full time, going to appointments, running errands, squeezing in grocery shopping, preparing a nourishing dinner, finding time for the gym… the demands can seem endless. When’s the last time you spent an afternoon doing absolutely nothing?

According to a new book from Dr. Matthew Sleeth, taking time to rest and relax may be one of the best things you can do for your health. In 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life, Dr. Sleeth emphasizes that for almost 2,000 years, Western culture stopped for 24 hours once a week, every week. “Even when I was a child, you couldn’t buy gasoline, you couldn’t buy milk. The drugstores weren’t open. And so society just had a day where they put it in park. That was Sunday until the last 30 years or so,” he says.

Now, in a culture that celebrates being busy, people are on-the-go nonstop – and it’s taking a toll on our health and happiness. Constant stress is causing a growing epidemic of depression and anxiety, Dr. Sleeth says, and stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are linked to obesity and diabetes.

To learn more about the connection between stress, hormones, and weight gain, tune in to Integrative Nutrition’s interview with women’s health expert Dr. Libby Weaver.

What’s the solution? Blocking out regular time in your busy schedule to rest and recharge. Though Dr. Sleeth recommends an entire day, taking it easy for just a few hours once a week can make an enormous difference in your life. Even if your Monday is busy and stressful, it can be reassuring to know that you have a relaxing and stress-free Saturday to look forward to. For someone who has a sedentary desk job, that may mean unplugging from your computer and going for hike; for someone who spends a lot of time on their feet, that might mean curling up with a cup of tea and a good book.

Whatever you choose, prioritizing unstructured downtime is a crucial form of primary food that will help you relax, appreciate what’s good in your life, and return to your daily tasks with renewed energy and enthusiasm. As Dr. Sleeth emphasizes, “I have many people that I’ve talked to now that have said that keeping one day of rest a week has been the single best thing they’ve done for their marriage, their family, and their spiritual relationship.”

What is your favorite way to relax and recharge?

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