Do you know what I want for Mother’s Day? No flowers. No jewelry. Not even breakfast in bed. I want a nap. My children would smile when they hear that, as they know that the only reason I stay up as late as I do is because they are still up! (Okay, or working on Yavneh e-mails or Advisory!)
I am actually in good company. An article “A Better Way To Work” in Nautil.us asserts that “Darwin, Dickens and some of the most accomplished people in history have one thing in common, said researcher Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. They worked with intense focus- but for only four hours a day.” These accomplished people shared a passion for their work, but only spent a few hours a day engaged in their work, and the rest of the time relaxing, taking naps, hiking or just thinking. Perhaps the key to their creativity did not only lie in how they worked, but also in how they rested.
Using Darwin as an example, he would begin work by 8:00 a.m. and work 1 ½ hours. At 9:30 he would read the mail and write letters. At 10:30 he would continue working until noon. He would then say, “I did a good day’s work,” and go on a walk. He then had lunch, and answered more letters. At 3:00 he would take a nap. Then he would take another walk and then have dinner with his family. At this leisurely pace he wrote 19 books and probably the most famous book in the history of science, Origin of Species. He made sure his days were filled with “downtime.”
Soojun-Kim Pang writes of numerous other “geniuses” who kept similar hours. G.H. Hardy, a famous British mathematician said, “Four hours’ creative work a day is about the limit for a mathematician.” He quotes a survey of scientists’ work in the 1950s which indicated that scientists who spent more than 25 hours at work were no more productive than those who spent five hours at work. Those who worked 60 plus hours a week were the least productive of those surveyed.
Similar results were found with musicians as well in the 1980’s in research by Ericsson, Krampe and Tesch- Romer. Even among those who needed to practice more hours “they have more frequent, shorter sessions… with half hour breaks in between. What separated the great students at the Berlin conservatory from the good…how they rested.” They took naps and slept more hours at night than their colleagues.
An increasing number of businesses are realizing the benefits of napping during the day. Uber and the Huffington Post have nap rooms. Google, Zappos and Proctor and Gamble have nap pods which have found their way into businesses and even schools. Ben and Jerry’s and Pricewaterhouse Coopers allow naps for their employees as well. Napping during the day helps with concentration and boosts productivity. It can provide a memory boost. It also reduces anxiety and depression and lowers blood pressure. Napping enhances creativity and strengthens willpower.
Even if napping is not possible, it is important to take a break and to have some “downtime.” This is particularly true for students. Dr. Alejandro LLeras conducted a research study at the University of Illinois to determine “the effectiveness of prolonged work or study periods without a break.” He determine that without short breaks performance dropped off. In other studies, researchers from the University of South Florida found that the length of a break directly correlates with how long information is retained. But, these breaks need to be taken effectively- not engaging in social media or texting. Those activities can actually increase stress and reduces the student’s ability to focus and learn. Aside from actual napping, exercise and “meditation” have been found to maximize the benefits of the break.
Although the research is recently popularizing the idea of taking a break, the Torah figured that out the first week of creation. God created and “worked hard” for 6 days and then He rested- modelling for us the importance of rest. On Shabbat we take a much needed break, as Dr. Yvette Alt Miller reports in her article “Shabbat and Good Health.” First, we take a break from technology on Shabbat. Dr. Alt- Miller quotes a study of Harvard Business School Professor Leslie A. Perlow where she asked high- powered consultants to to turn off their phones once a week- just for the night. She soon found that “the participants soon reported greater happiness, satisfaction with their work-life balance, and feelings of empowerment.”
We also eat dinner and lunch with our families on Shabbat. Dr. Alt- Miller quotes the famous 16- year study at Columbia University which says that when families eat together “consistently found that the more often children have dinners with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs, and that parental engagement fostered around the dinner table is one of the most potent tools to help parents raise healthy, drug-free children.” Those meals also strengthen the bonds between husband and wife.
Let us not forget the actual rest on Shabbat- which at times includes that nap. As we sing in Shabbat zemirot, מַה יְּדִידוּת מְנוּחָתֵךְ, אַתְּ שַׁבָּת הַמַּלְכָּה, “How beloved is your sweet rest! You the Shabbat Queen!” As the song continues later on,
הִלּוּכָךְ תְּהֵא בְנַֽחַת, עֹֽנֶג קְרָא לַשַּׁבָּת,
וְהַשֵּׁנָה מְשֻׁבַּֽחַת, כְּדָת נֶֽפֶשׁ מְשִׁיבַת,
בְּכֵן נַפְשִׁי לְךָ עָרְגָה, וְלָנֽוּחַ בְּחִבַּת,
כַּשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים סוּגָה, בּוֹ יָנֽוּחוּ בֵּן וּבַת.
Even your pace should be restful. Call the Shabbat a delight. The sleep on this day is praiseworthy, as it is necessary to restore the soul. Therefore, my soul craves You, to rest in Your love, surrounded by a hedge of roses. In this day will rest sons and daughters.
מֵעֵין עוֹלָם הַבָּא, יוֹם שַׁבָּת מְנוּחָה,
The rest on Shabbat day is a taste of the World to Come.
Just like in the World to Come, when we take a break we reconnect with our spirituality and with true meaning.
So, on this Mother’s Day, I don’t ask for much. I ask for a nap. A bit of downtime and just a taste of the World to Come. Happy Mother’s Day!
Sixth Grade: Students began discussing the potential danger their phones can be when it comes to cyberbullying.
Seventh Grade: Students discussed the role of the U.N. and their position on Israel and Yerushalayim.
Eighth Grade: Students focused on the dangers of alcohol and what it does to your brain in the long and short term.