My nana used to tell me that a change is as good as rest. In saying that she meant a change of routine, such as meeting a friend for coffee when she should have been ticking chores off her to-do list, would make her twice as productive later on. The proverb is often quoted but is there any truth to it? Psychologist Sasha Lynn thinks change gives us a sense of pleasure, which is restful in a physiological way.
“Change brings with it a renewed sense of vigour and motivation,” Lynn explains. “When we feel pleasure we get a hit of dopamine, the feel-good neurochemical. So in that sense, for sure change can be as good as a rest. We don’t necessarily need to stop and do nothing to feel rested.” But when it comes to exercising change for the sake of wellbeing, what exactly is it we should change? Lynn says that there isn’t a one change fits all solution – it comes down to an individual’s lifestyle.
“You could make changes in work, changes in your daily routine or try new hobbies,” she suggests. “Look for changes that bring you a new experience and enjoyment.” I was curious, so I bought new coffee mugs, replaced all my bed linen and rearranged the furniture in my home office. I definitely enjoyed the changes, but the feel-good factor was rather short-lived.
To further test the theory, I signed up for a couple of Zumba classes. As a regular gym-goer, I wasn’t looking for an endorphin fix or trying to boost my energy with exercise because I already get plenty of that. My aim was to see what happened when I swapped my usual HIIT workout for something totally different.
I did three Zumba classes over a week. I definitely enjoyed myself; in fact, my lack of co-ordination meant that I wiggled and shimmied my way through each session in side-splitting stitches. I felt elated afterwards and although I was swimming in sweat, I was more energised than exhausted.
Of course, Zumba is known for its feel-good factor – the music is chosen to create a party-like atmosphere and it definitely gets your endorphins pumping. So while the classes led to a feeling of renewal, I don’t know if it can be attributed to the change alone.
To further test the theory I asked other women to make a significant lifestyle change to see if the proverb proved true for them. Melbourne blogger and podcaster Carly Jacobs takes her health and fitness seriously and is vocal about eating a healthy and balanced diet. To shake up her eating habits, Jacobs went vegan for a week.
While she relished the idea of change of diet, the reality wasn’t as sweet. “I felt bloated and quite lethargic,” she says. “It felt like a lot of work for not much reward. Also, it was quite stressful having to plan food and ask about every little thing in restaurant food.”
At the end of the week Jacobs concluded that, in this instance, a change was definitely not as good as a rest. Sam Porter, who works in hospitality, decided to change the way she dressed, swapping activewear for regular city clothes to see if she experienced an increase in energy and productivity. Getting dressed up put a definite spring in her step.
“Wearing a dress inspired me to make more effort with my appearance,” Porter recalls. “I blow-dried my hair and put some lipstick on. During the day I smiled more and slowed down instead of rushing around.”
After a week of dressing up she found that her mood was lighter. “I felt more confident and seemed to have more energy.” So, is a change as good as rest? It probably depends on who you are and what you change. A change might not rock your world, but like a cool southerly on a scorching summer’s day, it can come as a welcome relief.
How to switch on
• Change your routine: get up 15 minutes earlier to allow yourself some quiet time before your day begins.
• Change your commute: listen to a podcast instead of checking Facebook while you’re on the train or bus.
• Change your diet: buy a cookbook and commit to making something new from it at least once a week.