The “Restorative Niche” and Constructive Rest
I recently read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I found it an absolutely fascinating read and one that resonated with me personally. I most definitely consider myself to be a natural introvert.
There were many things in the book that struck me as interesting from an Alexander Technique perspective, but one thing that stood out was Cain’s recommendation that introverts create “as many ‘restorative niches’ as possible in daily life.”1
The term “restorative niche” denotes “the place you go when you want to return to your true self.”2 For the introvert this means finding places and/or times where and when you can be by yourself, away from the stimulation of being with many other people.
Cain’s suggestions for possible restorative niches include quiet breaks between sales calls, canceling social plans on the weekend before a big meeting at work, practicing yoga or meditation, and even choosing to use email rather than have an in-person meeting.
On reading this I realized that I’ve been incorporating my own kind of restorative niches into my schedule for a while now. For instance, I always allow 15 minutes between students in my calendar, I often like to do my daily walk by myself, when I attend conferences I always pay the extra to have a room to myself (somewhere I can retreat to!), AND I have a daily Constructive Rest practice.
In fact I immediately realized that the Alexander Technique practice of Constructive Rest is a wonderful example of a restorative niche. Even term restorative niche immediately resonated. Constructive Rest fulfills all the requirements set out by Cain – you practice on your own, quietly, and you have time to think and be aware of and be with yourself. Constructive Rest is, however, a restorative niche in more ways than one. Practicing Constructive Rest not only restores the introvert’s need for quiet and space to be with themselves, but also restores in other important ways too.
Restorative benefits of Constructive Rest include:
- muscles and joints are restored as they release excess tension
- pressure is taken off the spine, allowing displaced spinal fluid to be reabsorbed – restored – which eases compression, restoring you to your full height
- calmness is restored as you take time away from the stresses of the day
- your breathing calms and is restored to become more regular
- your digestive system has time to release, helping restore optimal function
- energy and ease is restored as you return to your life in the upright
According to Cain, and this is certainly true for me, introverts crave – indeed need – to incorporate restorative niches into their day to be at their best and most productive. Constructive Rest is a practice that has served this function for me on many different levels – not just as an introvert. This doesn’t mean, however, that restorative niches aren’t useful, and even necessary, for extroverts too, although they may take quite a different form from those sought after by introverts. This might also explain why some people take to constructive rest so easily, and others avoid it or find the practice difficult. In terms of Constructive Rest, I’m sure back pain and poor posture, for instance, are just as prevalent among extroverts as introverts, so it would definitely be worth giving it a try. And in the 21st century I think even extroverts can use a little break from the fast pace and ultra-stimulating environment in which we live.
Introverts and extroverts have much to learn from each other. And while Constructive Rest may be more challenging for extroverts, learning to quiet the mind and be comfortable by ourselves is a useful skill for us all, even if it’s not our natural preference. If you do find it testing to lie still by yourself, start with very short amounts of time (5 minutes or less). You may also find it helpful to listen to an audio or even to music – anything that helps you be more comfortable as you learn this new skill.
Do you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert? Do you have restorative niches in your life? What helps you cope and be more productive? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
And if you haven’t already tried it, giving yourself the gift of Constructive Rest as a restorative niche would be a great place to start!
* Find out how to practice Constructive Rest here.
1. Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012), 219
2. Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012), 219
I started constructive rest after being in the studio and find it very restorative. I am an introvert and the Alexander Technique has suited me very well, being unintrusive and allowing for internal shifts as my body shifts.
Thanks for your comment, Margaret. I’ve been wondering if the Alexander Technique is more attractive naturally to introverts? It would be an interesting study…
I absolutely love the phrase “restorative niche” and relate to it on every level. I know I search for this in my life, and if I don’t find it, I get a sense of imbalance internally. I’m definitely going to borrow this phrase!
I’ve never particularly thought of myself as an introvert, although I’m definitely not an extrovert. I do, however, need a lot of quiet, private space. I always have, and as a child many in the family saw me as different because of it. It’s almost like at home I sought out those private resting places, whereas at school I was much more extroverted in class.
Very interesting and helpful post!
Where the Personal and Professional Meeting
Yes, isn’t it a wonderful phrase!
As far as the introvert/extrovert thing, from what I’m learning we’re all a mixture of both, but most of us to tend more one way than the other. Also introvert doesn’t mean shyness (though obviously they often go hand in hand) – it’s more that introverts enjoy and need quiet solitude as part of their life, and often work best on their own. It sounds like you definitely have some introvert in you, and that is a good thing! It’s usually on our own that we’re at our most creative and thoughtful.
Another Alexander introvert here! I love the idea of constructive rest = restorative niche, and your blog post explains clearly why the two concepts and practices dovetail so beautifully. My restorative niches include time spent with my horses (the barn is my definitive restorative niche) and anywhere with a cat in my lap! When I have been out and about, retreating to my car can become a bit of a niche and I will often just rest for a moment of quiet before switching on the ignition for the next leg of my journey, even if the next stop is home! Thanks Imogen, for another thoughtful blog post.
Great restorative niches, Jo Ann! Thanks so much for sharing these.
Yes! Constructive Rest is an EXCELLENT restorative tool, I always say that it’s better than a nap! And I like the idea of a study re introverts and AT 🙂 I need to buy the book, never seem to get time to listen – or if I do I tune out to the CDs and miss loads.
I definitely recommend the book. I’m very taken with the term “restorative niche” and think Constructive Rest fulfills the original requirements, but is also restorative in many other ways too. Yes – better than a nap!
Hi Imogen, an interesting post, thank you. I actually find that swimming in a fairly quiet pool a la Shaw Method is one of my restorative niches as an introvert, a place where I can work on my stroke without much interference and am at peace with the support of the water.
Sounds lovely! 🙂
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Good and nice job!