As temperatures drop, it's only natural to want to take a load off and curl up with a good book.

Now, science shows that you're perfectly justified in skipping that holiday party to do just that: read your book. Alone.

A research collective out of Durham University, alongside the BBC, recently conducted a large-scale study called The Rest Test. They questioned 18,000 people in 134 different countries to come up with a definitive list of activities people consider restful, as well as whether rest impacts a person's health and well-being.

The top ten most popular rest activities were:

  1. Reading (60 percent)
  2. Being in nature (53 percent)
  3. Spending time alone (52 percent)
  4. Listening to music (41 percent)
  5. Doing nothing in particular (40 percent) (my favorite, and one you could also describe as "Puttering")
  6. Walking (38 percent)
  7. Taking a bath or shower (37 percent)
  8. Daydreaming (37 percent)
  9. Watching TV (36 percent)
  10. Meditating or practicing mindfulness (25 percent)

The researchers highlighted the trend of solitude, saying, "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."

In fact, a new study out of Finland shows that both introverts and extroverts find socializing draining. The article, titled "Happy Now, Tired Later? Extraverted and Conscientious Behavior Are Related to Immediate Mood Gains, but to Later Fatigue" says that while extroverts report feeling energized right after time socializing, three hours later they feel depleted.

This makes sense, given the amount of energy and focus it takes to spend time with others. You may not notice it in the moment, but your body and mind register the fact that not only are you managing the social anxiety of hanging out by the crab dip alone until someone talks to you, but once they do, you're tracking that person's words, their facial cues, the environment (i.e. a crowded bar or restaurant), how your conversation could impact social dynamics at the office, and whether your significant other is getting restless and wanting to leave yet, all at the same time.

It's no wonder you'd need a break after all that.

According to The Rest Test, a full 68 percent of people (both introverts and extroverts) say they want more rest. The average amount people said they'd gotten the previous day was 3 hours, yet the amount linked to a high sense of well-being is 5-6 hours.

In other words, we should all probably be resting twice as much as we are now.

This makes sense now more than any other time of the year. The end of autumn and beginning of winter is a natural time of rest. Nature itself slows down, gets quiet, prepares for the cold and the dark ahead. 

It's the perfect time to hibernate. To become introspective and reflect on all the year has brought us, both good and bad. To allow ourselves the space and time to simply be, instead of do.

But in order to get that rest that can be so healing, we need to stop feeling guilty for resting in the first place. We've got to internalize what this study shows us: that reading a book, or puttering around the house, or taking a nice long bath, or prioritizing a walk alone over a "mandatory" family outing, is more than just a nice activity--it's an act of self-care that is critical to our physical and mental health.

The holiday season is full of guilt. Don't buy in. If you need time alone, take it. 

Published on: Nov 30, 2017