wikiHow to Rest Intentionally

Anxiety, stress, grief, unhappiness and a sense of ever present negativity wear you out and drain your sense of direction. For many people, rest is a time of continuing to chew over the emotional turmoil they're going through, thereby heightening anxiety, worries and fears. Is this how it has to be? In a word, no. Human beings are clever, adaptable and innovative but human beings often forget how to properly care for themselves and rest is one area that many of us treat as an afterthought or even as a luxury we can't really afford. However, rest is essential for our well being and it can even be used to heal.

Intentional resting is method developed by Dan Howard.[1] He has been teaching people for decades how to practice intentional resting over feeding adrenaline and allowing stress to continue to manifest itself. In this article, you'll become familiar with the techniques of intentional resting and can try it out for yourself. The aim is to ultimately relieve yourself of the guilt, worry and anxiety and to learn to rest in a way that helps you to heal and move through the tough times in life.


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    Begin by focusing on a part of your body that is hurting you. It can be a sore part of your body or an inflamed area such as your neck or shoulders. Or, it might be your mind if it's full of racing, uncontrollable, negative or unhappy thoughts. Or perhaps it's your skin, your knees, your lymphatic system, your broken heart – just pick whichever part of your body is hurting most or causing you the most discomfort in your opinion.
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    Focus your willpower on the part of your body that you have decided is hurting. What do you notice when you do this? For most people, you'll find that your body as a whole, including the painful area, tenses up. Be aware that this is a common strategy that we use to try to deal with pain – yet you've just learned that it doesn't work so well!
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    Change your strategy. This time, pretend that the pain is no longer present. Ignore the pain and tell yourself that you're not hurting. This strategy is like playing peekaboo – first you see it but then when you no longer pay attention to it, you expect it to go away even though it's still very much there. Consider how this makes you feel – does the pain go away? No? You've just discovered another common strategy for dealing with pain that doesn't work!
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    Stop trying. Now say the following phrase to yourself, either in your head or out loud: "I am resting for [name the area of the body that is hurting] now." Then just pause. Think about what you notice now. For many people, focusing on resting works far better than working at trying to fix something relentlessly or to try to hide from it. Indeed, Dan Howard says that the more you work at trying to stop the pain, the less successful you will be. Instead, intentional resting requires that you notice what is going on in your body and then choose to rest what hurts.
    • This exercise can be done anywhere – you don't have to stop what you're doing but can incorporate this desire to rest the hurting part of your body into whatever it is you're doing. It can be done when walking, exercising, sitting, lying down, or being around other people.
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    Try different ways of telling yourself that you're resting. This isn't by any means an exact science and it'll require some trial and error on your own behalf to find what works for you. For example, Dan Howard has found that some parts of his body respond better to saying "I'm resting into my [whichever part it is]" than saying "I'm resting for [that part]". The aim is to find a settling feeling, a feeling that you've landed into deep restfulness for that pained part of yourself and you're releasing yourself from unease, anxiety and discomfort. It's a healing process and a restorative process.
    • It may be as simple as saying to the hurting part of your body: "Rest". Give it the permission to rest.
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    Repeat until this method works best for you. It may take a number of attempts before the pieces fall into place and you discover how intentional rest soothes you and allows you to truly rest to the point of restoring your energy and reducing any pain.
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    Be accepting of the value of resting like it matters. Rest does matter and yet it is tied up in so many negative connotations such as being lazy, selfish or unaware that many of us are too guilt-ridden to treat rest as the restorative we deserve. Martha Beck points out that we need to watch animals to be reminded what real rest is like. She relates an incident where she was watching a pride of lions resting after an unsuccessful hunt. Instead of sitting around down and low about it (and analyzing what went wrong if they could do such a thing), they sat, purred and rested for hours, surrendering to the need to regain strength rather than wallow in defeat.[2] Yes, life can be hard and sometimes life stacks up all the odds against us and causes us to feel that we never get a break. However, by choosing to rest intentionally, you can heal the scars and restore your energy to face the challenges with greater strength and sense of purpose.


  • A need to rest is your body's way of telling you that you need to slow down your life and focus on what really matters. If you've been spreading yourself too thin and trying to be there for everyone, resting gives you the space to be there just for yourself and to ratchet back some of that over-activity by choice.

Things You'll Need

  • Focus on relaxing, stopping and resting

Sources and Citations

  • Dan Howard, Intentional Resting, – research source.
  • Martha Beck, Lying Low, pp. 65-68, in The Oprah Magazine, September 2010 – research source.
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