For years, I've been thinking, reading, and writing about human nature, and how we can be happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. How can we change, if we want to change?
And that subject has led me to think a lot about habits.
Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. If we have habits that are good for us, we're far more likely to be happier; if we have habits that are bad for us, we'll find it tougher to be happy.
For the past two years, on the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, Elizabeth and I have issued a yearly habit challenge to ourselves and listeners.
- In 2020, the challenge was to "Walk 20 in 20," i.e., to walk for 20 minutes every day in 2020.
- For 2021, because 2020 was such a tough year (!), we decided to make the challenge a delightful challenge: to "Read 21 in 21."
Listeners told us about the extraordinary benefits they've received from their daily walks and daily reading. It's exciting to hear how much good can come from simple, manageable, consistent acts.
As 2022 rolls around, it seemed to Elizabeth and me that we're all really worn out. So our challenge for 2022 is...REST for for 22 minutes a day in 2022.
Many people think of rest as merely the absence of work, not as something valuable in its own right, and sometimes, it’s even equated with laziness.
Actually, the opposite is true. Research shows that rest is an essential element of working well and working smart. Working for long stretches without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion. Taking time to rest can refresh the mind, boost productivity and focus, and replenish mental energy. Research also suggests also that taking regular breaks raises your level of engagement which, in turn, is highly correlated with productivity. Rest also sparks creativity by helping people to make unexpected connections, open to different possibilities.
Rest can include actual sleep, which is absolutely essential to health, mood, and immune function. Many people might use Rest 22 in 22 to go to sleep earlier each night, arrange their schedule so they can sleep a bit later in the morning, or take a daily nap. (To hear me talk about my daily nap, listen to episode 337 of Happier.)
As you consider joining the challenge, if you'd like to learn more about the value of rest, check out...
- Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime
- Beyond Memory: The Benefits of Sleep
- How Resting More Can Boost Your Productivity
If you rest for 22 minutes per day for 365 days, that's 8,030 minutes, or almost 134 hours of rest. Imagine how refreshed you'll feel after that rest!
As you think about this challenge, my book Better Than Before might be useful. It explores the 21 strategies we can use to build our habits. Sometimes people tell me, "Twenty-one is too many! Give me the three big ones!" But different strategies work for different people, so consider the menu of options and choose the strategies that work for you.
For instance, I describe how to use the Strategy of Pairing, the Strategy of Convenience, the Strategy of Scheduling, the Strategy of Accountability, the Strategy of Monitoring, and the Strategy of Identity.
To make the habit of resting easier, I've created a one-page “Checklist for Habit Change” that lists all 21 strategies that you can use to strengthen this habit. You might use many strategies in combination—which is much easier than it sounds.
To download the checklist, visit this page and scroll down to "Better Than Before."
If you're struggling to form a habit, and want to figure out which of the 21 strategies will work best for you, my book The Four Tendencies can help you decide the approach that's most likely to work. If you don't yet know if you're an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, take the quick, free quiz here. (More than 3.5 million people have taken this quiz!)
If you're discouraged because you've tried and failed in the past to master an important habit, don't worry. There's nothing wrong with you. You probably just set things up in a way that doesn't suit you. Answers and solutions exist! It turns out that it's not that hard to change a habit, when you do it in the way that's right for you. #Rest22in22 is a great opportunity to experiment and learn what works best for you.
You can join my app, the Happier app. There, you could choose a tool that would help you stick to the habit of rest. You might choose the...
- Photo Log (take a photo of your pillow each time you rest)
- Accountability Partners (text a friend each time you've rested or are about to rest for 22 minutes)
- One-Sentence Journal (record your experience and reflect on what works)
- Numbers Tracker (record your minutes)
- Don't Break the Chain (check off every time you rest)
If, like many people, you like using those kinds of tools, but you prefer the paper version, I've created three terrific journals:
- One-Sentence Journal
- Know Yourself Better Journal
- Don't Break the Chain Habit Tracker—this is my personal favorite; it has so many features to help you stick to a "streak"—and what a great "ta-da" memento it will make at the end of the year!
If you want to keep a record of "Rest 22 in '22" on one page, I've created a free one-page PDF that lets you cross off every day you rest. You can download it here.
A note about "Don't break the chain" tool: Remember that while we don't want to break the chain, if we do break the chain, it's not a big deal—we can just start back up the next day. What we do most days matters more than what we do once in a while.
If you join this "rest" challenge, use the hashtag #Rest22in22 to post from your daily rest on social media. As the Strategy of Other People explains, we pick up habits (for better or worse) from other people, so it's helpful to feel like we're joining with others. It can give us accountability; it can help us remember what we want; it can remind us of how great it feels to be refreshed and energized.
As you think about your #Rest22in22, try to find ways to make it easier or more convenient to rest.
- use these seven tips to help yourself go to bed on time
- avoid resting in your workspace
- rearrange your space to create a more inviting area for rest
- upgrade your bed linen, buy a new pillow, or otherwise make your rest more delightful
- find a podcast that helps you drift into sleep
- find a soundscape that helps you rest—I love the sound of rain in a forest
- create a rest ritual, to help yourself drop easily into a restful state
- think about how grateful your future-self will be if you develop a habit of rest in 2022
- consider how others might benefit if you're more rested
What other tips and resources have you found helpful? Let me know! We can all learn from each other.
One bit of folk wisdom that I heard when I had very young children was that "Sleep begets sleep." I found that to be true of my children, and also of myself. I sleep and rest better when I'm well-rested than when I'm over-tired.
Join us to #Rest22in22.
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The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t act. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so understanding your Tendency lets us make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively.