The case for doing nothing


Out of our ‘the busier the better’ bustling world arises a welcome rebellion that is switching off phones, brains and the eternal to-do list.

 

 

“I’ve done nothing today” is often a statement of shame-ridden guilt.

However, that very nothingness can be a productive, even lucrative, something. It’s just in disguise. A new movement to purposely slow us all down is fast taking over the globe.

Busyness has been attributed to success and worthiness – while doing ‘stuff all’ often holds the stigma of being lazy, unmotivated or unproductive.

If only we could see the measurable physiological anti-anxiety benefits that our mind and bodies get from gazing glassy-eyed out the window in the midst of a hectic day.

There is a good reason that many of the best inventions, songs and ideas are born in the middle of the night. The mind is empty, quiet and still. We are just lying there in the dark – doing nothing. Enter creativity.

Some cultures are better than others at embracing the health-enhancing art of nothingness.

The Dutch have a catchy succinct word for the concept – Miksen. It is a verb, a.k.a a doing word, that means to ‘do nothing’.

The Italians indulge in a concept known as ‘la dolce far neinte’ translated as ‘the sweetness of doing nothing.’

The Chinese have mastered the concept of ‘wu wei’, meaning inaction, which is seen as central to living a life harmoniously.

Mid-afternoon snoozes are a time-honoured tradition in the heat of the Mediterranean, but we shouldn’t need global warming to nudge us to nod off.

The concept of allowing 40 winks in the middle of a work day is being discussed as a productivity-boosting bonus in the office – to recharge batteries and counterbalance chaos.

Our minds need to empty out the old in order to refill.

Enjoying doing nothing doesn’t mean checking emails, chatting or watching TV while flopped catatonically on the couch.

That’s cheating. It can take a while for wound-up minds to wind-down and get comfortable with the habit.

We innately know when to switch off. It just takes a little neuron rewiring to make it easier, with practise, to tap into our inner timetables.

This sweet neutral state of ‘effortless being’ is a natural trait to all living things.

Observe animals both in the wild, and the ones chillaxing on our carpets or wandering nonchalantly in the garden – they have it sussed!

The nothing experience needs to be guilt-free to be of real benefit.

Imagine not achieving everything, or indeed anything, on your daily agenda.

Are there any adverse consequences? Doing zilch and zoning out can create momentum, motivation and more energy for the hours and days to follow.

When a person stops and does absolutely nothing for a moment, or two, or three, the benefits can be empowering and enlightening. Add in some nature – and that equals bliss.


 

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