Results of the Rest Test

woman resting on a chaise longue

Regular visitors to the EP website may remember a post from Autumn 2015 about Hubbub and Radio 4‘s The Rest Test, the world’s largest survey into subjective experiences of rest.  The aim of the test was to investigate how different people understand and seek to rest and whether rest can be linked to well-being. A year on and with the input of more than 18,000 people from 134 countries, the results have just been published.

Summary of the Main Findings

68% of the individuals who participated in the survey would like more rest. A third said they feel they need more rest than the average person, and 10% believe they need less rest than the average person.

A question asking how much rest a participant had taken over the previous day resulted in an average of three hours and six minutes.

Participants who had experienced less rest than most the previous day, or who believed they need more rest than the average individual, scored lower overall on a well-being scale. In a marked difference, people who felt they had sufficient rest scored twice as high on well-being scales than those who felt themselves in need of more rest. This finding supports the idea that an individual’s subjective perception about whether they feel rested enough is as important as obtaining a specific amount of rest.

Participants with the highest well-being scores had rested on average for between five and six hours the previous day. Those who’d rested for longer began to experience a slight dip in their well-being score.

Top 10 Most Restful Activities

  • #1 Reading

58% of people found reading restful. The Rest Test included a scale to measure whether people felt they were flourishing, and participants who scored high on this scale were particularly likely to choose reading as a restful activity.

  • #2 Being in the natural environment

Women were slightly more likely to select this activity than men, and it scored lower in the rankings in Northern Ireland than in other regions across the UK.

  • #3 Being on your own

This was most frequently chosen by women and individuals under the age of 30. A significant number of the top ten restful activities chosen by participants are often carried out alone. It’s interesting to note that social activities including seeing friends and family, or drinking socially, placed lower in the rankings. It’s also not just introverts who rate being alone as a restful activity. Extroverts also value time spent alone, and voted this pastime as more restful than being in the company of other people.

man resting in a park

  • #4 Listening to music

This was more popular among younger people than older people, and was selected by more men than women participating in the survey.

  • #5 Doing nothing in particular

This was a popular choice for every age bracket participating in the survey, with the exception of 31-45 year-olds. Doing nothing in particular is not a source of rest for everyone however, and some 9% of participants observed that taking rest can lead to them feeling guilty or stressed.

  • #6 Walking

This is an example of how physical activity features on the list of restful activities. Alongside walking, running was selected by 8% of survey participants as a source of rest, and exercise was found to be restful by 16% of people overall.

  • #7 Having a bath or showering

This was much more popular among younger participants in the survey, with nearly twice as many 18-30 year-olds selecting this option than those aged over 60.

  • #8 Daydreaming

Daydreaming, or mind-wandering, features heavily in Hubbub’s research into rest, and its appearance in the top 10 list of restful activities gives us lots to think about.

  • #9 Watching TV

This was popular amongst more younger people than older people, and was chosen by more women than men participating in the survey. It’s interesting to note that watching TV was less popular than reading in every age group taking part in the survey.

  • #10 Meditating or practising mindfulness

The appearance of meditation and mindfulness on the list is noteworthy given the increase in wider popularity of these practices in recent years.

Below is another tune from my Greek Hammock Time Playlist, Feist collaborating with Little Wings.  One to listen to on your own in a natural environment…very restful!  Note: no peacocks were harmed in the making of this music video…

The Rest Test

Photo by Alison Brady

Rest is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for all ages. It rejuvenates your body and mind, regulates your mood, and is linked to learning and memory function. Not getting enough rest, on the other hand, can negatively affect your mood, immune system, memory, and stress level.

How good at resting are you?  Why not take the Rest Test and find out.  The Rest Test is designed to explore people’s attitudes and opinions towards rest and rest-related experiences. The reseachers want to take a snapshot of people’s resting habits.

The Rest Test was designed by Hubbub, an international team of social scientists, psychologists, neuroscientists, artists, humanities scholars, and public engagement experts who are in residence at the Hub at Wellcome Collection in London.

The questionnaire is split into two parts. The first part takes about 5-10 minutes. You will be asked some questions about your attitudes towards, and opinions of ‘rest’ and to give some demographic information.

After completing Part 1 of the questionnaire you’ll be asked if you’d like to continue to Part 2 – there is no obligation to do both parts, but if you do have the time to do both that would be of great benefit to the researchers.   Part 2 takes about 30-40 minutes and has more in-depth questions about rest and also some questions about yourself.

By completing the test, not only will you help the researchers understand more about rest, you’ll also be given an instant summary of the results from the first part of survey, which will allow you to see how your responses compare to those who have taken the questionnaire so far.  The results of the The Rest Test will be aired on BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind programme in 2016.

Here’s a link to the site where you can take the Rest Test.

Ballerina Project

Want to feel more rested and relaxed?  Here are a few tips which might help:

1. Make time to relax

As you do with a hair, dental or other self-care appointment, make relaxation a priority by blocking out time for it in your diary. Taking this time is especially important when you are feeling stressed and over-burdened, even if all you do in that time is take a leisurely walk round the block.

2. Follow a routine

Rather than waking up and immediately jumping into the day at high-speed or equally jumping straight into bed at night, follow a routine that allows you time to transition from one part of the day to the next. For example, consider waking up 10 minutes earlier and before turning on your TV, radio, computer or smartphone, take the time to do some simple Pilates exercises instead.

3. Give your mind a break

Relaxation isn’t only about resting your body—resting your mind is just as important. If you struggle with constantly worrying or stressing about certain concerns, write them down, put the list aside for a few days and then revisit them. Sometimes when we give our mind a break from certain thoughts, we return with greater clarity. Also, consider participating in an activity that requires your full attention, such as Pilates. This type of activity can give you a mental break by requiring you to be fully ‘in the moment’ both physically and mentally, leaving little time to think about your to-do list.

4. Try a relaxation technique.

Below are some 5-minute relaxation techniques that can be practised any time or place which you should find rejuvenating:

  • Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Put your hands on your abdomen and as you breathe in, let it expand like a balloon filling with air. As you exhale, slowly let the air out. You should feel your abdomen rising and falling as you breathe.
  • Try to raise your shoulders up to your ears for 5 seconds, and then let your shoulders drop. Then, one at a time, rotate each shoulder backward 5 to 10 times, and then together rotate them forwards 5 to 10 times.
  • In a relaxed position, close your eyes and breathe naturally. Think of the number one as you inhale.  Continue this for at least five minutes but try for 10 to 20 minutes. Any time your mind starts to wander, gently pull it back to thinking of the number one.

Rebecca Loyche