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Too Busy to Rest?

This is my dog, Shadow. I enjoy going for walks through the park with Shadow. For Shadow these are opportunities to chase and retrieve a ball, to play with other dogs, and to showcase her innocence and unending energy and affection to strangers. For me this is a time for play, for fresh air, for reflection, and for enjoying the simpler side of life. Walking with Shadow is a highlight for me, to rest and retreat and escape from the pace of ordinary life. It is a constant reminder of the beauty found in rest … and to avoid busyness that precludes rest as an orienting and regular part of my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms.

Vast social changes emerged from the shifts associated with traditional to modern to late modern society. Sociology started as a discipline to better understand these social changes, and today more than ever sociology is a valuable lens for understanding humanity’s intersection with social life and history at large. Here are a few sociological observations and reflections about busyness and rest.

In 80% of two-parent families in Canada today, both parents work for pay outside the home. Sometimes this is to finance a costlier way of life, but many times both parents work out of necessity. Children are involved in three to five extracurricular activities on any given week, premised on the emerging cultural belief that options and choice are integral to self-discovery for children. As societies urbanize, cities expand outward, and cost of living near a city’s core soars, individuals spend more time commuting to and from home than ever before. Technology contributes to work no longer remaining at work, but rather infringing upon an employee’s personal time for family, friends, and leisure. Busyness is also celebrated as a cultural virtue. Busyness is code for successful and important.

None of the above are inherently bad. Still, sociologists (and psychologists) well document that regardless of age, stage of life, gender, race, socioeconomic status, religion, or family status, busyness that precludes rest is problematic to a person’s well-being, relationships, and workplace productivity. Yes, demographics can and do impact the degree of choice that one has in determining how much rest they can afford, literally and metaphorically, and the kind of rest and leisure that they can embrace. As we learn from Karl Marx in the social conflict tradition, money does factor largely into these conversations.

Nevertheless, as you enter Christmas holidays and reflect upon 2014, take an inventory of busyness in your life. Are there things that you can do without? Are there ways to simplify life? Are there opportunities to embrace leisure and rest as part of your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms? What specific steps will help you to make the ideal real in this respect? Be encouraged that as society changes all around, impacting how individuals appropriate busyness and rest, that agency still remains for individuals – we all have a degree of choice in how busy or restful we are.

Have additional thoughts or reflections on this topic? Send me an email at and stay in touch via my website at

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