Are you sweating? You should be, says Richard Wiseman, a British psychologist who measures pedestrian walking speeds around the world. Since the early 1990s, he says, the human race has sped up ten percent. But where is all this hurrying getting us? When you stop to consider that some of our greatest discoveries came while doing nothing (Newton sitting under an apple tree, Archimedes taking a bath), you might realize it’s this incessant busyness that’s the real deadly sin.
Take Chrissie Wellington, for example. She’s a four-time winner of the grueling Ironman World Championship, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run. She logs thousands of miles per year to stay in shape—but just as important as all that training is doing nothing. “I normally take two total rest days a month,” she says. “Buttocks-on-sofa is the position I assume. It’s not wasted time. The body needs a break to consolidate its training gains. Resting makes me better, faster, stronger, and more resilient.”
In fact, taking it slow may have benefits in other areas, like weight loss. Adults sleeping five or fewer hours per night have a 55 percent greater chance of being obese. Research reveals that lack of sleep disrupts the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which play a role in appetite regulation. Daydreaming also has its upside.
Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that people who let their minds wander for 12 minutes performed 41 percent better on a subsequent creative task than if they hadn’t daydreamed.
Meditation, of course, is a form of relaxation. And the benefits are real. In a study at the University of Washington, those given eight weeks of meditation training were able to concentrate longer with less anxiety. That’s why Mark Bertolini, the CEO of health-care provider Aetna, starts each day with yoga and meditation. “That’s my wellness program,” he states.