The Two Kinds of Rest
There are two kinds of rest. The first kind is actually restful - that is, you come back feeling happy and recharged. The second isn’t.
It’s strange, then, that the second kind of rest is more common, especially when we think of rest: this includes things like going out with friends, reading, gaming, or watching a movie. How often do you hear people say “I’m taking a break, I’m going out to meet some friends.”? Or: “I’m off to watch a movie. Time for some fun.”
The problem, however, is that those kinds of rest don’t really do what they advertise to do: they don’t give you actual rest. You don’t bounce back from a night with friends feeling recharged and ready to tackle your next big work problem. Similarly, playing a video game, reading a book or watching a movie will take your mind off work for the duration of the activity, but it won’t actually help you get back to it.
It seems that the kinds of rest that are truly restful are the ones that don’t seem like rest, at first. At least, they’re not things we normally think of when we talk about downtime. Different people use different activities to recharge - the surprising thing I’ve found about this is that it actually takes some experimentation to figure out what works for you.
After some time, I’ve found exercise to be the most effective form of rest for myself, followed closely by meditation, and then cooking. I remember spending a huge amount of time working when I was in Silicon Valley, primarily because I’d cycle to the gym 3 times a week. Other activities didn’t seem to leave me significantly better equipped to deal with the stressors of work.
The important distinction to make here, I believe, is that of stimulation. Games, books, friends and movies are fun, and by definition fun things stimulate your mind. Occasionally, fun is what you need. But after a long day at work, sometimes the last thing you want is more mental engagement.
It is therefore important that we don’t lump the two kinds of rest together. They’re different, and therefore useful for different things. Go out with friends for fun. But when you’re starting to feel a little burnt out, go for a run, instead.
 Naturally, if going out with friends or reading a book relaxes you, go do that, by all means. The point I’m trying to make here is to figure out what works for you, and use that knowledge to your advantage.