There is a fourth kind of rest I didn’t mention: Inactivity. All the other kinds of rest, Distraction, Recreation, and Maintenance, are active. They involve doing something. That something might not be productive in any traditional sense, but it’s an active choice to do something rather than nothing.
Inactivity is different. Inactivity is choosing to do nothing. It’s sitting on a couch being bored, letting thoughts come and go but not pursuing them. It’s looking out the window, seeing the clouds and the leaves in the trees move with the wind. It’s sitting on the beach hearing the waves crash into the shore. It’s sleeping at any time, day or night.
Inactivity matters because there are important things that only happen when we do nothing. These can be physical, as in various bits of body maintenance that happen during sleep, but they can also be mental, as in the slow percolation of thoughts.
Doing nothing, not trying to do anything, means there’s nothing external competing for space in your mind. You aren’t filled with some task you want to accomplish, so you can listen to what’s already there.
I don’t know that I want Inactivity all the time, but I think I could stand to be bored just a little bit more.
(Thanks to Katherine McDaniel for pointing out this fourth kind of rest.)