Today we ask you to relax.

Most people want to relax.  There are many professions, even industries, dedicated to helping people relax, not to mention many drugs that serve this purpose.

And yet people are still not at all relaxed.  If anything, people are more stressed and tightly wound than ever.

Why is this so?

People believe they have no choice in the matter.   Life is stressful.   Their jobs are stressful, their relationships are stressful, the world is stressful.  It would be nice to relax, of course, but they can’t afford it.   Even if they can, they’re far too busy.

So that is what people think.  They wish they could relax.  Who doesn’t want to relax?  But external circumstances always prevent them from doing so.

In truth, people do not relax because they do not believe in relaxation.  They do not value it. It is not a priority.  Because of this, many modern humans have all but lost the ability to relax.

People may want to relax.  But they have been taught, since childhood, that resting is a sign of laziness.  If they are awake, they ought to be doing something productive.  And they should be awake more.  Modern humans on average sleep less than any generation in human history.  Forgoing sleep is considered a mark of productivity and virtue.

If people believe that relaxation is lazy, unproductive, and a sign that they’re weak and worthless, they won’t do it — no matter how much they may fantasize about it.

Moreover, modern humans are addicted to continuous stimulation.  Their eyes are always on a screen, always checking, always alert, always taking in new information.  Never have humans been so restless.

People have no idea how detrimental all of this is to their health.

It is no exaggeration to say that the vast majority of physical and mental illness in developed  countries is caused, quite simply, by chronic lack of adequate sleep and rest, accumulated over many years.

This really is true.

Relaxation and sleep are just as important to human health as exercise and a good diet.  A human cannot be truly healthy unless he is capable of frequent deep relaxation.

And this will not happen if he believes that relaxation is lazy and unproductive.

People know that eating well and exercising is good for them, even if they don’t do it.

But people don’t really believe that rest and relaxation is actually good for them.  They may know they want it, but they don’t understand that it is absolutely necessary for their mental and physical health.

So please understand this.

Rest, relaxation, and sleep are absolutely necessary for your mental and physical health.

Human beings thrive on a minimum — a minimum — of eight hours of sleep at night, plus short daytime naps.  If one sleeps less at night, more daytime napping is necessary to make up for the deficit.  These naps can be brief — even ten to twenty minutes can help immensely — but they are essential.  

If this were truly understood, society and business would promote sleep, napping, and relaxation in order to massively increase productivity and efficiency.

This measure would also radically address your overburdened health care systems.  All major diseases associated with developed countries — cancer, heart disease, and diabetes — are strongly impacted by sleep and rest, and the lack thereof.  Mental health is also powerfully affected by sleep and rest.

If you replaced the belief that “relaxation is a sign of laziness” with the belief that “relaxation is absolutely vital to your health,” it is far more likely that you would create more space in your life for sleep and relaxation.  You would also be more likely to help your children learn good sleeping habits.

Of course, this is only true if you are someone who values your health.  Most people think they value their health, but often there are other things they value more — like money, achievement, proving they are worth something, or even just being stimulated and entertained.  When health is not a true priority in your life, this will be reflected in your experience.

That said, if you do honestly value your health, learn how to rest.  If you have forgotten how, you must relearn how to do this.  Shut off your screens, for a start.  Take a true break.

Is it possible for you to have a guilt-free day of rest?  A “lazy day”?

Would it relieve your guilt if you knew that every “lazy day” you give yourself measurably increases your health, well-being, and productivity?  That every nap you take, that every moment of true unwinding you grant yourself actively reduces the agents of physical and mental disease in your body?

So please.  Take a rest.  Guilt-free.  It’s good for you!