What is a Restorative Practice?


re·store

/rəˈstôr/

verb

verb: restore; 3rd person present: restores; past tense: restored; past participle: restored; gerund or present participle: restoring

  • bring back (a previous right, practice, custom, or situation); reinstate.
  • return (someone or something) to a former condition, place, or position.
  • repair or renovate (a building, work of art, vehicle, etc.) so as to return it to its original condition.

Reinstate. Return. Repair. Restore.

We live in a culture that places a high value on productivity. We work 40+ hours per week, we do high-intensity workouts 5 days per week, we are constantly attending social events (well, maybe not post-COVID, but it used to be a common thing to spend a Friday or Saturday night in a social setting). So, it’s no surprise that our culture’s idea of rest does not equate to the concept of restoration.  

In our modern world, on the surface, rest looks like sitting on the couch, scrolling through social media or binging your new favorite Netflix show (often doing both at once). Our modern society may think that rest looks like taking a nap after work, or relaxing on the couch playing a video game – and while all of these types of rest could serve as physical rest, they are doing nothing to restore our mind, body and soul.

This type of rest does not cultivate inner peace. This type of rest does not connect us with our truest selves. This type of rest does not repair our mind, body and soul from the impact of the day’s stressors. And this is why a daily restorative practice is essential to our well-being, our growth and our physical and mental health. 

To reinstate our inner peace. To return to our true selves. To repair the damage and imbalances that life’s daily stresses cause. This is the purpose of a restorative practice. It serves so much more than the simple act of resting. It allows us to reconnect with ourselves, with the purpose that lies deep in our soul.

The truth of the matter is, if we want to be the productive and successful beings that our culture values, we must first invest in ourselves. We must first find a way to balance hard work with a daily practice of intentional rest. And that starts by identifying your individual needs.

Instead of focusing on what your body needs to do today, start honing in on what your body needs you to do today. Start by asking yourself daily, “What does my body need from me today?” 

Maybe your body needs physical rest – and not the kind that offers rest with a distraction, like social media or any other sort of screen time. No, this kind of rest is a mindful act of self care. This kind of rest may look like; going to bed early, making sure you’re getting enough sleep or putting your to-do list on hold. 

Or maybe your body needs gentle, intentional movement. Instead of that hardcore workout that only focuses on burning calories, try a movement that serves your body’s needs. Maybe you go on a nature walk, a bike ride or do a yoga practice. 

Sometimes our brain needs a break, too. Maybe you’ve had a hard, stressful day and you need a moment to clear your head, give your hard-working brain a break. Maybe you put your headphones in, close your eyes and listen to a meditation or your favorite playlist of calming music. Give your brain some time to wander, drift, rest.

Even our heart and soul may need a break at times. It is only human to experience difficult emotions and feel weighed down by the gravity of them. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, heavy or confused about a feeling or situation, pick up a pen, write how you’re feeling. Or take a moment of meditation, stillness to find clarity and recenter. 

Our bodies are constantly sending us signals. I encourage you to begin looking inward, asking what your body may need from you each day. Listen to what it has to say. Then, take action. Move in a way that offers your body the rest it truly deserves.

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