What Keeping the Sabbath Can Teach Us About Rest

Many of us find time to schedule a coffee, cocktail, or mocktail catch-up with friends, early morning workouts, and dinners out with family — but do we ever really schedule in time for rest?

Scheduling one day for rest, in some religions, is called keeping the Sabbath. Below, learn more about why people observe the Sabbath and how to incorporate a day of rest into your life even if you’re not religious.

person resting while keeping sabbath

The history of Sabbath keeping

Sabbath, or Shabat, originates from the Jewish faith. As part of the Ten Commandments, God called for the Jewish people to observe the Sabbath, which is the Hebrew word for “stop.” 

People would keep this day holy by ceasing all work. That meant no chores, errands, or shopping for a full 24 hours. Today, those who observe the Sabbath may even opt to abstain and disconnect from social media and/or technology. 

Benefits of observing the Sabbath

Sabbath, though originally rooted in faith and religion, can be viewed as a period of rest for all life — and that goes for believers and nonbelievers alike. 

“From a Christian standpoint, one may consider Sunday the Sabbath as the day of rest and a way to honor God,” says Brent Metcalf, licensed clinical social worker practicing at Tri-Star Counseling in Johnson City, Tennessee. “Without the Christian or religious/spiritual view, it is simply a day to rest.”

One 2019 study followed 10 women with no history of practicing the Sabbath and found that introducing the new holistic health practice of keeping the Sabbath increased their self-awareness and enriched their relationships.

Another study looked at the health and well-being of Seventh-Day Adventists, who keep a weekly Sabbath. On average, members of this religious denomination tend to live roughly 10 years longer than the average American.

This longevity has largely been attributed to their mandated weekly Sabbath, although they also perform daily exercise and eat a plant-based diet.

Taking a Sabbath: how to incorporate rest into your routine

Keeping the Sabbath may sound countercultural, but it makes rest and reflection a priority just as much as the other six days of the week emphasize active pursuits. It’s one day of the week when we can actually be human beings instead of human doings.

“Constantly being on the go all the time can be stressful,” shares Metcalf. “The constant wear on our mind and body can lead to anxiety, depression, or even physical illness. Individuals need time to rest, relax, and recharge. Keeping a Sabbath can help with this.”

Taking one day out of the week to rest is a way to reclaim your time — and it doesn’t require any special training or equipment. Perhaps the most important thing to understand about keeping the Sabbath is that it doesn’t require total militant stillness. Rather, it’s a day when you do activities you usually don’t do the other six days of the week.

Think of things that bring you energy and joy and provide a break from activities and things you feel you need to accomplish. Take time to consider your calling, connect to God or a higher power, and get out in nature.

If you’re religious or spiritual, attend a service at your place of worship or go for a long walk and connect to the Universe that way. Those are just a few ideas, but the beauty of the Sabbath is it’s completely customizable to you, your lifestyle, and your likings.

The bottom line: If you’re craving connection to your purpose or more rest in general, keeping the Sabbath may be a low-lift health and wellness practice for you. 

Like with any new routine, you may need to ease your way into it. So start small with a four-hour half-day Sabbath for a few weeks and then extend it to six hours, eight hours, or longer until you feel like you’ve found a sweet spot.

Mindfulness Think & Feel

About Ashley Martens

Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a background in a digital marketing coupled with her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Ashley offers a healthy alternative to traditional writing. You can learn more Ashley and her writing over at her blog, Three to Five a Day.

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