A collection of 3 graphics about positive climate, self-directed social play, and nature connection.

Rest and the Nest: Grind Culture and Evolution

I’m reading Tricia Hersey’s Rest is Resistance at last! She names the American culture many of us have been raised and trapped in as “grind culture.” Reading it, I’ve been thinking about reasons why grind culture feels so bad– and is so bad for us as humans. 

There are lots of answers to this– top of mind for me is the set of needs we evolved for millions of years and how grind culture forcibly dismantles all of them. Darcia Narvaez and colleagues have been demonstrating that for 99% of human history, kids were raised in small bands of hunter/gatherers, and that these cultures tend to have common ways of raising kids. 

Read on to learn more about what has been termed the “evolved nest,” and ways to take care of ourselves even within grind culture.

What is grind culture? 

Hersey created the Nap Ministry as a resistance to grind culture, and I strongly recommend you check out her work. Here’s an interview to get you started, but you can also find great podcast interviews with her, visit her website, and of course, read her book. 

In that interview she states: “Grind culture is quick-paced, fast, gotta do it now, quantity over quality, scarcity over abundance, and ‘if I don’t do it, nobody’s gonna do it.’ That only allows you to continue to abuse yourself.” 

An image of the cover of Rest Is Resistance by Tricia Hersey.

In Rest is Resistance, she talks about how grind culture: 

  • Treats bodies like machines
  • Pushes us to do more– even when that damages our health
  • Is “a sinister collaboration between capitalism and white supremacy.”
  • And “the ‘success’ grind culture props up centers constant labor, material wealth, and overworking as a badge of honor.” 

Using evolutionary wisdom to challenge grind culture 

For 99% of human history, most kids grew up in environments where they were cared for by multiple responsive adults who were generally positive and affectionate (with frequent touch), and kids engaged in spontaneous, imaginative play. This system of care, play, and responsiveness to needs is called the evolved nest. You can see the whole list of the nine components of the evolved nest at the website. There’s also a checklist for thriving as an adult at the very bottom of that page, so scroll down!

I’m not saying we should all try to live like small-band hunter/gatherer people– that would make many of us miserable (myself included). But I appreciate knowing that the grind culture in which I grew up is very far from the home culture that my body evolved to expect. This helps me not judge myself for feeling out of place, missing a home I never had, or feeling stressed, anxious, etc. And in my own choices and re-parenting of myself, I can keep in mind how my body and brain evolved to be raised, and meet that as much as possible. 

Ways to meet evolutionary care needs 

Let’s look at some of the care we evolved to expect and how to provide it for ourselves now. (Quotes in this section are from evolvednest.org.)

Positive climate 

“A welcoming community of support.”

Of course this extends beyond me and into the people I keep close in my life, but in terms of this post and solo actions I can take, this includes how I speak to myself. Grind culture is not kind to growing humans and a lot of us have very negative self-talk. I try to bring curiosity and playfulness to disrupt places where I’m still mired in negative self-talk. Plus, I can put reminders in my space to help me feel safe and cared for. 

Positive moving touch 

“Carrying and rocking promote neurobiological health.” 

Get out your weighted blanket and enjoy rhythmic movements. This also intersects with the Nap Ministry in that touch can be a path to rest. Whether we cuddle up with another person, a stuffed animal, a weighted blanket, space out with a fidget, rub any part of ourselves that’s sore or needs care, we’re providing touch to strengthen our mind and body.

Responsive relationships 

“Responsiveness to needs and cues.”

When we’re little kids, it’s ideal to have adults around who pay attention to the cues we give about what we need and then work to meet those needs– especially when we’re younger than five. It’s not always easy to directly say what we feel, especially at this age. But grind culture has people working so hard and pushing kids to become perfect productivity machines, so that kind of responsiveness doesn’t generally occur as much as kids need it to. 

As an adult, I realize that I sometimes neglect my body in a way that’s like ignoring the cues and needs of a young child. Often the first step is for me to get curious about what my body is signaling. What are the cues that I need rest, movement, nourishment? And then I can play with ways to meet those needs. 

Self-directed social play

“Frequent play with multi-aged mates.”

For myself, play is typically a kind of imaginative rest, and there are so many kinds of play! I strongly recommend a wide range of multi-aged mates, not only in the external world, but also within ourselves. My younger and older selves have a lot of wisdom and also a joy in shenanigans– I’ll bet yours do too!

Nature Connection

“Nature nurtures us. When we care for it, we heal.”

Connecting with nature takes so many forms. Ashton wrote a great blog post about this, which you can read if you want to learn more.

What are ways you find yourself pushing against grind culture? I’d love for you to share them in the comments so we can build a collection of strategies that might work for different folks. You can also share them on my Facebook or Instagram pages, both @rachelgoldauthor.

A low-key bibliography for this post:

Darcia Narvaez, Embodied Morality: Protectionism, Engagement and Imagination (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2016)

Darcia Narvaez, Contexts for Young Child Flourishing: Evolution, Family and Society (ed. with Braungart-Rieker, Miller-Graff, Gettler, Hastings; OUP, 2016)

Tricia Hersey, Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto (Little Brown, 2022)

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