An exploration of rest

Relaxing with a leisurely cycle ride through the Chilterns to The Tree Cathedral.

Relaxing with a leisurely cycle ride through the Chilterns to The Tree Cathedral.

I’ve been quite stressed recently. Perhaps it’s coming back to work after a the summer break? Or perhaps it’s starting my new job. Either way, it’s been hard to switch off and rest.

Last Friday night I went to The Wellcome Collection’s late night “Hubbub Spectacular” all about exploring the concept of rest through many different disciplines. The Hubbub group has been awarded a Wellcome Trust residency and grant for two years by to “transform how we understand rest”.

Here’s what they say on their site:

“The urge to be busy defines modern life. Rest can seem hard to find, whether in relation to an exhausted body, a racing mind or a hectic city. Should we slow down, or should we embrace intense activity? What effects do each of these states have on the health of our bodies and minds? Such questions frequently find their way into media reports and everyday conversations, but there has never been any sustained interdisciplinary attempt to answer them. Through our residency, international experts investigating hubbub and rest at different scales will, for the first time, be gathered in a shared space – to breathe new life into the questions we ask about rest and busyness.”

Rest in sound, daydreams and brain tingles

The Hubbub Spectacular evening saw us exploring daydreams, lullabies, fantasy and the ‘brain tingles’ (when our brain goes all fuzzy and tingly when listening to or watching certain things). Listening to the contemporary lullaby installation and thinking about my childhood lullabies actually made me feel sleepy and relaxed. Learning about how early brain researchers tried to analyse daydreams was…intriguing (they asked people questions such as “do you daydream about taking part in an orgy at a Roman banquet?”). I even posted one of my work daydreams into Hubbub’s post box for them to analyse.

I was really excited to mark where I get my brain tingles onto the Hubbub group’s brain map. Have you ever experienced a brain tingle? It’s when your mind and head goes fuzzy and really relaxed when fairly mundane things happen. I get it sometimes when I’m listening to someone talking over the phone. Others get it when they watch people fold towels?! I had no idea it was a ‘thing’ until this event. I can’t wait to see how the Hubbub group will use the information to learn more about the brain tingle phenomenon.

Measuring rest

Claudia Hammond, BBC science presenter and Hubbub collaborator, talked about how hard it is to measure whether we are actually resting less in these modern times with smartphones and constant data connectivity when compared to the past. Studies measuring rest usually ask people to note down what they do every minute of every day; a very dull task! Claudia also pointed out that the definition of ‘rest’ is problematic. Where one person may feel cooking is a chore, others may find it a restful activity. And to try to go back in time and look at diaries – say Pepys’ diary – to see how much rest people used to get is also tricky. Is Pepys a ‘typical’ person of his time? Or did he work more and rest less than others?

The Hubbub group are planning on a nationwide survey to study rest in the coming year – perhaps the findings will be able to answer some of these challenges?

Fear of missing out

The event reminded me of a Guardian article I read a while ago about the mindset dominating our era: the fear of missing out (FOMO)! Apparently, it’s “an age old problem, exacerbated by technology”. Emerald Street also discussed this mindset in February this year, citing a need to embrace the missing out and rebranding FOMO into JOMO – the Joy of Missing Out.

I can completely relate to the FOMO feeling. London is a fantastic city and I’m constantly reminded of all the quirky, cool things you can do there with your weekend. But at the moment, at the end of this busy week, I need rest and my way of resting is to potter about at home, go for a walk to enjoy the countryside, maybe see a friend for coffee or a drink and work on my cards.

So while Hubbub finds a multidisciplinary answer to rest in the modern world, embrace the joy of missing out and do what you need this weekend to relax!


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