Why can’t I rest? Learning how to regenerate yourself (1/5/10)
Beginning Your Regeneration
It’s the New Year, but people feel tired and restless. They’re worried about the economy, their jobs and family, and the the state of the world. They wonder if their health will hold out and if health care will be there when they need it.
No wonder people have a hard time feeling rested and alert.
Yet there are more significant reasons then even the state of the world why people don’t feel rested. First, most folks don’t know what rest is for or how it works. Second, they don’t know how to get it. Third, they’ve no sense that insufficient rest leads to feeling chronically tired and fatigued, which makes even vacations non-restorative.
In this article and the series that follows it, you’ll get some answers.
Rest is Regeneration
Pick up an acorn. It’s small, so small you generally crunch it unthinkingly underfoot.
Now look around you. There’s an oak tree nearby. It’s probably tall, perhaps majestic or just plain gigantic.
That oak tree came from a single acorn.
A similar fantastic process transforms you – but it’s so fast and complete you mainly don’t recognize it except in the form of growing hair, thicker muscle, or greater knowledge. You don’t put down roots or grow to the sky. You recreate yourself from within.
Your process is fast, vast, and only ends when you do. A principle of your biological life is renew or die.
We know this most directly from studies of sleep. Sleep deprive any animal and it dies.
Yet our form of renewal is anything but passive, and rather wondrously, is much under our control. We remake ourselves within weeks, renewing ourselves based on what we learn (much of this learning, as for example in the immune system, is unconscious.) Take away your teeth and bones, bits of DNA and cytoskeleton, and most of you is new. The pumping proteins in your heart are built, used, and recycled into something else in 60-90 minutes. Most of your heart is replaced within three days.
Yet best of all, we don’t just remake everything according to the same imprint – we learn. Reading makes new nerve connections; walking across the street changes joint and bone formation. Our body constantly processes new information, turning it into usable form. That learning remakes us every hour of our living day.
So that’s what you do to remain healthy – you regenerate yourself. And you want to regenerate yourself the way you like. You begin to do that through the Way of Rest.
Active and Passive Rest
People think of rest as a waste of time. Why should I “rest” when I can be Facebooking, drinking wine, daydreaming about fast cars or shopping?
Three reasons: 1. Rest is active as well as passive 2. Rest is necessary for life 3. Rest is fun.
You’ve may have bought in to the wrong idea of rest.
Passive rest includes sleep and sitting in front of a TV. Sleep we know is several different states of consciousness, critical to health and life, whereas sitting in front of a TV for more than 6 hours a day increases our rate of death. Yet both get lumped together by people into what gets called “rest” – passive, unthinking, unconscious rest.
Now consider active rest – its physical, mental, social, and spiritual varieties. Active rest is under conscious control. Active rest rebuilds your mind and body. Active rest calms you when you’re stressed, or perks you up when you’re exhausted.
In a nutshell, active rest helps regenerate you. And that’s the question you want to frequently ask yourself – what can I do to regenerate myself, every hour of every day.
Following this can bring you to intense spiritual rest in the middle of the day; to walk across the street with a work colleague to a restaurant, combining social and physical rest in a form that will grow you new brain cells at night; or use mental rest techniques like paradoxical relaxation to calm yourself down, lowering stress and cortisol simply by knowing how to pay attention to your muscles.
Put together active rest in a daily cycle and suddenly stress becomes more controllable. Music is in our genes, and time rules life. Active rest can more than revive you. Using active rest techniques in league with your body’s inner cycles can help you become more productive on the job while setting a pace to your day that feels musical.
It pays to rebuild your body the way it’s built.
And active rest can be a lot of fun. Not only can you calm yourself within 30-60 seconds, but you can make passive activities more fun, too – as when you pre-dream, and start changing the content your brain works on during your “unconscious” night.
Rest is regeneration, renewal, and rebuilding.
Feeling Fully Alert
Active rest techniques can aid making people feel alert and fully alive, while also helping them get more healthy. Yet full alertness is unknown to most of us. Not only are we sleep deprived, we’re rest deprived. And rest deprivation makes us feel testy and tired just by itself.
You need rest to regenerate yourself. With insufficient rest, particularly insufficient sleep, your body does not have the chance to fully renew.
It’s like being in perpetual debt. Every year your income rolls in, but the cost of living goes even higher. You sink into further debt.
That’s what happens with rest deprivation. The less rest you get, the harder it is to quickly reset and renew the way you want to.
People find themselves stressed, strung, tense. They’re hyperaroused. Even when they want to they can’t slow down. They feel speeded up, inattentive, unable to begin the process of feeling alert and fully aware. They don’t feel like themselves, but more like a machine.
So the Way of Rest includes more than regeneration. It starts with restoration – restoration of your bodily functions and your brain’s rewiring.
Regeneration is how we survive – and thrive. You’ll hopefully learn more as this series continues.
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