Rest A Much Neglected Health Factor
Some New Highlights On This Subject
A wise oriental once said: “He who can perceive inaction in action, and action in inaction, is wise among men.”
It is during the hours of rest and sleep—when we seem to be most passive—that something within us is intensely active, recharging us with vital energy for the next day.
When we are active, we are expending energy; when we are seemingly inactive, we are receiving it. For “energy is always noted in its expenditure, never in its accumulation.”
Animals instinctively know this. So do babies! As the Irishman once remarked, “They sleep a good deal of their waking day.” We spend a third of our lives in sleep, and its remarkable recuperative effects are well-known. Have we not all had this experience? We are tired—fatigued. The head nods for only a few moments, and yet we feel refreshed, invigorated. Those few seconds have changed our whole outlook on life.
But it is not always necessary to sleep in order to obtain these beneficial results. Rest will revitalize us, too; but must be the right kind of rest. Complete relaxation with the eyes closed is a part of this formula—but only a part of it. There is a technique of rest, as there is for anything else. The best results are obtained only from the right kind of rest. How should one go about insuring this?
First of all, a few obvious essentials. The room in which we are attempting to rest should be as quiet as possible, and the light subdued. There should be a feeling of certainty that there will be no distraction and disturbances. The muscular system should be relaxed, and this may be accomplished by going over the body in thought, relaxing every part of it in turn as we come to it. (Deep breathing exercises will help in this.) Certain areas should receive particular attention, as they are points of tensions; the solar plexus, the back of the neck, the jaw, the throat, the shoulders. Go over the body several times in this way, relaxing each point in turn as you come to it.
Recent researches have shown that merely closing the eyes rests the brain and mind in a peculiar way. An electric rhythm starts as soon as the eyes are closed, and ceases immediately when they are opened. What the exact purpose and nature of this rhythm are, still remains to a great extent a mystery, but one might well imagine that they serve to clear “negative charges” from the brain. At all events they denote recuperation. The activity of the senses, and particularly the eyes, prevents this from occurring.
Fatigue is of two kinds: muscular fatigue and fatigue of the nerve cells. The former is easily overcome by a short period of rest; every athlete knows this. Exhaustion of the nerve cells, however, is another matter; this is deep-seated, and time is required to recharge the tiny “batteries.” It is this lowering of energy in the nerve cells that leads TO physical and even mental trouble. Carried to an extreme, it leads to “nervous breakdown.”
This life-energy of ours should be carefully conserved. When it is riotously expended it must be replenished. If not, we run into trouble. Overwork, sexual excesses and prolonged strain waste the energies. But more important than all these are the emotions. These are the factors which short-circuit the nervous system and exhaust its reserve energies the most quickly. Any amount of thinking will never tire us, providing emotions are not associated with these thoughts.
All strong emotions have this effect. It is well-known that fear, worry, anxiety, anger and similar powerful emotions will have this result, but so will intense excitement and foolish enthusiasm! Take a football game. The players become tired, but a brief period of rest refreshes them, and they are ready to “raise hell” that night. But the spectators are exhausted! High tension over too long a period has this effect. And it is the same in our everyday lives. As Dr. Trall once remarked, “A life cannot be both intensive and extensive.” A relatively calm and peaceful life will insure longevity; and in the meantime will insure freedom from nervous depletion and breakdown.
All this does not mean that normal enthusiasms should not be indulged in, or that one should become a jellyfish, devoid of energetic thinking and acting. Provided destructive emotions are not present, these would represent merely a wholesome, healthy life. But, just as powerful feelings can drain the cell-energies rapidly, less powerful ones, sustained over long periods, will exhaust them slowly. Fears and worries particularly have this effect. So will frustrations, resentments and inner disharmonies. These will fight against one another and ultimately devitalize their host completely.
There is an old saying that a man can climb mountains all day and be relatively fresh at the end of it, whereas if he has to wash dishes for ten minutes he is exhausted! The reason for this, of course, is that in the first instance his whole being is working in unison, wheras in the latter case he is fighting against himself. His conscious mind forces him to perform the activity while his subconscious mind is resenting and resisting it.
The result is that he is like two mules hitched to opposite ends of a rope, pulling against each other. Result: They get nowhere. But hitch them up in tandem, and they will pull you out of the rut. It is this internal emotional conflict which wears down the energy of the nerve cells and in time produces dire results.
No one should be ashamed of lying down for a few minutes some time during the day, closing the
eyes and relaxing. This is especially true of elderly people. It rests the heart, equalizes the great blood-lake and restores the energy of the brain and nerve cells. More important still, it will prevent you from becoming fatigued. Towards the end of the day, “tiredness” seems to progress in almost geometrical ratio. That is why it is necessary to go to bed at a reasonable hour, if one has to get up early.
If one is tired after sixteen hours, the seventeenth hour will fatigue you far more than one-sixteenth of the waking day, and the eighteenth hour still more, and so on. Those last two or three hours are often the ones which make all the difference between a normal life and one which is headed for ultimate physical and mental trouble.
Two other important factors should be noted in this connection. The first is that a complete change of mental interests will often act as a great reenergizer. Perhaps new areas in the brain are involved; more probably the conscious and subconscious mind are now working in harmony, rather than in opposition.
Whatever the cause, the fact remains that a man may be tired out at the end of a day’s work, but as soon as he begins tinkering with his hobby he is no longer exhausted. Travel has much the same effect. A complete change of mental scenery will work wonders in the way of rejuvenation, as we all know.
The second essential for complete internal rest I have rarely seen mentioned anywhere—and yet it is highly important. The vital organs of the body need rest, too, just as our external muscles do. I refer particularly to the digestive organs. It is now generally acknowledged that we all eat far more than we need, in order to maintain the physical and vital wastes of the body. The amount of energy required to convert and digest this quantity of food must be prodigious, and this energy must be drawn from the general fund.
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A little judicious fasting will work wonders in restoring this vital expenditure. Many people are chronically tired for no other reason: they keep themselves constantly fatigued because of this internal overactivity of the digestive organs—even during the hours of sleep, when a “late supper” is indulged in. Giving these vital organs a rest is highly essential. The benefit to be derived from occcasional fasting or semi-fasting are attributable largely to this—the rest given the organs of digestion at such times. The rejuvenating effects of these periods of abstinence and self-discipline have been noted by many who have given them a fair trial. Doubtless you can do the same.
Rest—external and internal—is a fundamental requisite for a healthy, normal life. The human protoplasm needs rest. It must have it. Nothing else will take its place. The human heart beats approximately 100,000 times every day—every twenty-four hours—and yet (if not abused) it can continue to function in this way for eighty or a hundred years. Why?
Because, between each beat, your heart rests. It is a momentary rest, it is true, but enough to permit its recuperation. Activity and relaxation should alternate. That is the law of life. Obey this law, and health, harmony and happiness should be yours!