Science And The Bible Agree—A Weekly Day Of Rest Is Good For You
We are human beings, not human doings, and definitely not machines. We need to rest and recharge our batteries because the saying is true: you can’t pour from an empty cup.
We’re always on the go, on to the next business deal or project, booking the next trip, cramming tons in a day on top of an already filled schedule, then making sure we don't have FOMO on the weekends by getting in plenty of social time. No wonder the majority of adults are exhausted – 89% of Americans have suffered burnout in the past year! And not to mention, the majority of people are almost always using their digital devices in some way or other, which is taxing on the brain. People aren’t letting themselves take a break and use restorative rest time, which then also makes them more susceptible to catching whatever sickness is going around.
A Glance at History
The Christian notion of a “day of rest” dates all the way back to the biblical account of Genesis, thousands of years B.C., when God created the world and rested on the seventh day. Jews have observed a day of rest on the Sabbath (Saturday) throughout history, and the Christian population continued to observe the seventh day (on Sunday) as one of rest for religious observance, but it was also practical. In 321, Roman Emperor Constantine I formally established a seven-day week and issued a civil decree that proclaimed Sunday as a day of rest.
The Communist Revolution in Russia in 1917 brought the upheaval of the traditional calendar and spelled exhaustion and misery for the working classes. For 11 years, the Soviet Union had no weekends. The new regime eliminated Sunday as a day of rest because of the revolt against the former government that followed Christian standards, including the biblical day of rest. The Communists further wanted to deconstruct the family and the individual’s worth and to push the industrial workforce to greater limits. So they instituted a 5-day cycle of workdays, with occasional days off. But this was not sustainable or practical, and it failed.
In American culture, we’ve lost what used to be a well-observed day of rest, and Sunday has become, for many, a “prep day” for the upcoming week after a recreational Saturday. Since America was settled by Christians, the cultural practice of Sunday was kept as a rest day for religious observance. What is known as blue laws – laws forbidding any Sunday work, including shopping – were in place in America beginning in 1650. In the early 1960s, 34 states prohibited stores from doing business on Sundays. It wasn’t until New York ended their blue laws in 1976 that stores began to stay open on Sundays across the country. Now, it seems like Sundays are the busiest shopping day of the week.
Laws forbidding any Sunday work, including shopping, were in place in America beginning in 1650.
Besides corporate businesses and Chick-fil-A, it’s rare to come across a business that closes on Sunday anymore. Chick-fil-A's Twitter account stated that the chain is closed on Sundays for practical reasons to give their employees a rest day with their families after the busy week, and their website says founder Truett Cathy learned firsthand the importance of closing on Sundays after having worked seven days a week in restaurants open 24 hours. From the opening of the first Chick-fil-A in 1946, company policy has been to close on Sundays “so that he and his employees could set aside one day to rest and worship if they choose.” And now, the science supports the sense of Chick-fil-A’s policy.
Even scientific studies show that our bodies need a day of rest. This should include rest from professional work and physical activity, as well as mental work online, since many people work remotely and their digital activity can be just as exhausting as physical work. Most religions incorporate a day of rest for practical reasons as well as for religious worship, and science agrees that the concept of a rest day is a health necessity. Giving yourself a mental and physical holiday from the labors of the workweek is essential for emotional stability and physiological function.
A day off from work, including online activity, with intentional relaxation also contributes to better sleep which is a direct factor in longevity and can help your skin to age more gracefully – and who doesn’t want that?!
With time consistently allotted for yourself away from your work sphere, studies show that you’re then able to recharge mentally and emotionally as well as physically, which helps maintain a balance in your mental health. Most people who feel overworked and stressed from their job would know this instinctively; if you don’t let your brain rest and recharge, you’ll snap easier, you’ll be less patient and more emotional, you might feel increased anxiety and/or depression, especially during PMS, and your relationship and home life might suffer.
You’ve also probably learned by now that stress can affect hormone levels and may cause fertility problems. Your hormones can easily become imbalanced with stress overload due to excess work activity, and increased cortisol from stress will imbalance your other hormone levels and can result in weight gain, period irregularity, high blood pressure, and mood swings. Even if you’re an overachiever who doesn’t like “wasting time” and may feel guilty giving yourself time off, consider your day of rest as an investment in your feminine health as well as your work performance.
If you don’t make time for your wellness, you’ll be forced to make time for your illness.
Creating diversity and restoration in your life apart from work and activity makes your life better because it decreases inflammation, assists in stress management, contributes to better sleep quality, and improves cardiovascular function (to name a few). Those who don’t rest put themselves at risk for increased heart attack and stroke. Most jobs involve a certain amount of stress, especially corporate jobs and entrepreneurial startup companies, and even if you’re someone who manages stress well, you’ll still feel the impact of work stress over time. The British Heart Foundation shows that constant stress is linked to higher brain-emotional activity and an increased risk of developing heart and circulatory disease, making stress as much a health risk factor as smoking or high blood pressure. Even fitness programs and instructors recommend a rest day to allow your body to recuperate; without that rest, your muscles are not able to fully repair themselves, which could then lead to muscle weakness and increased inflammation.
If you continually push your body and your mind without some type of recuperative respite, your system will eventually go on strike and force you to rest. Continued stress, activity, and/or strain without rest decreases your immunity and makes your body more vulnerable to infections, illness, and injury. You can’t expect to keep up a schedule of constant work without giving yourself a break and some restoration. Sooner or later, your system will get run down, and you’ll crash and feel wiped out and maybe even get sick.
There’s a wise saying by Joyce Sunada: “If you don’t make time for your wellness, you’ll be forced to make time for your illness.” This is very true and will manifest in your life to make you learn the hard way if you don’t invest in the well-being of your health by resting.
Try to make one of your weekend days a day of rest. You don’t have to book a deluxe spa treatment or stay at a resort, but you can unplug from your phone, read a book, take a leisurely bike ride or a walk outside, take a nap in the hammock, make yourself a foot soak, have a picnic with your bestie or your man, whatever! And don’t forget to schedule in some quiet time alone (set a reminder and a timer if you have to) for meditation/prayer and silence to let your brain unwind and your mind unplug from distractions and stress. Sometimes just being in a quiet area in nature can be meditative in itself! If you don’t have access to a quiet area outdoors, pop your headphones on and listen to nature sounds while you lay down, eyes closed.
If you want to make your day of rest even more restful, you could cook your food the day before and eat leftovers, or use that promo and order in. I once met a sweet German couple who had a tradition of only eating charcuterie style with fruit and cheeseboard foods on Sundays so they didn’t have to cook or do dishes. I thought that was a really fun idea and an easy one to prepare in advance. You can have some paper plates and napkins on hand to avoid any dish pileup.
We all need rest, and what’s more, we all need a day of rest. Rest and recuperation are not just something given in the military after an intense ordeal – it’s scientifically so important for regular life that there is a whole day devoted to rest. Get things done on Saturday, whether it’s grocery shopping, lawn work, laundry, meal prep, etc., so that you can fully unwind on Sunday. Allow yourself this time to recharge and make wellness a priority.
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