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The ten most restful activities

18,000 people completed the world’s biggest survey on rest – The Rest Test. It was devised by Hubbub, a group of researchers at Wellcome, which included Radio 4 presenter Claudia Hammond.

People were asked to choose which three activities they found most restful and these came out top. Claudia tells us why.

1) Reading

Reading came out on top in the survey, with 58% of people saying they find it restful. People who scored high on a scale which measured whether they felt they were flourishing in life were even more likely to choose reading.

2) Being in the natural environment

This backs up research showing that many people find it therapeutic to be out in nature. Slightly more women than men picked this one and it was less popular in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the UK

3) Being on your own

It’s striking how many of the top ten activities are often done alone. Seeing friends and family or drinking socially came much further down the list. In the Rest Test even the extroverts rated being on their own as more restful than being with other people. Women and people under 30 were even more likely to choose this one.

How being alone may be the key to rest

4) Listening to music

More men than women and more younger people than older people chose this activity.

Why you need to learn how to rest

Is it the absence of work? Does it have to mean doing nothing? You have to learn to rest.

5) Doing nothing in particular

This is an interesting one. Every age group liked this a lot apart from the 31- to 45-year-olds. Some people say they find it hard to do nothing and it was striking that in the Rest Test, almost 9% of people said resting made them feel guilty or stressed.

6) Walking

For some, a long walk can never feel restful but for others it’s perfect. Some find that by exercising the body they can clear their minds. 8% even find running restful.

7) Having a bath or shower

I would definitely put this in my top three. But it gets much less popular with age. Almost twice as many 18- to 30-year-olds put this down as people over 60.

8) Daydreaming

There’s long been debate amongst psychologists about whether letting the mind wander is good for you. Ruminating over negative thoughts is common in people with depression, but increasingly there’s a sense that our minds are so prone to wander that it might bring benefits.

9) Watching TV

More women than men chose this one and more young people than older people, but it came way behind reading in every age group.

10) Meditating or practising mindfulness

With the recent rise in the popularity of mindfulness, maybe it’s not surprising that it makes it into the top ten above gardening, seeing friends or sex. Would it have been there a decade ago?

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