From rushing around doing housework and chores to getting the shopping done and the dinner cooked, not to mention going to work, we barely have time to stop and breathe let alone sit down and do nothing for half an hour. Yet the art of doing nothing is something quite powerful that may well change our lives.
In the Western world, we live in, being busy has become a desirable attribute with it seeming impressive to be juggling an armful of balls at one time. As such, people often completely ignore the fact that we’re in a constant state of stress while doing so. However, living in this fight-or-flight mode can lead to health issues such as increased blood pressure, anxiety and depression and reduced sleep which all have an impact on our overall wellbeing.
So how can you bring more peace and space into your life? Why is the art of doing nothing a good idea? And how can you master it? Read on to find out.
What Is The Art Of Doing Nothing?
Many of us believe that we’re good at doing nothing as we like nothing more than having a pyjama day on a Sunday when we’re hungover or procrastinating when there’s work to do. But it’s important to point out that distraction is different to doing nothing.
The art of doing nothing is accomplishing the difficult task of really doing nothing. At all. Nada.
Some may call sitting in one place with no distractions meditation while others simply call it the art of doing nothing. You don’t have to have a goal in mind, be working towards enlightenment or consider it a spiritual practice, but just sitting and doing nothing is a great way to slow down your mind and body so that they are able to enter the parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ mode instead of the stressed sympathetic ‘fight-or-flight’ system.
Why Is Doing Nothing Good For Me?
Allowing your mind and body to unwind from daily life gives you time to process your thoughts and feelings, release tension in your body and tap into that healing modality of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Unlike distraction, which can cause low self-esteem (social media, I’m looking at you), unhealthy eating habits (through unconscious snacking) or depression, the art of doing nothing lets you just be. This simplicity gives you the space to relinquish comparison, tap into your true feelings, gain clarity and restore yourself both physically and mentally. Doing nothing is also believed to help with creativity blocks, grounding, connecting to your intuition and can even give you a boost in productivity.
In order to really make the most of this art, you’ll need to release any judgement you might be feeling about wasting time or being self-indulgent, and remember that this time is valuable and comes from a place of self-care, not self-centeredness.
French and Italian people seem to be a lot better at “La Dolce Far Niente” (the sweetness of doing nothing) than we are in the UK or the US, soaking up the pleasure of really being in the moment, whiling away the hours with a delicious coffee or the feeling of sun on their face. But this is because the art of doing nothing is something that is engrained in their society and culture, an important pastime passed down from generation to generation. If we can take even a snippet of the relaxation felt when experiencing “La Dolce Far Niente” our health and wellbeing will thank us!
How Can I Master The Art Of Doing Nothing?
Initially, the art of doing nothing can be surprisingly overwhelming, with the voice in your head feeling like you have 100 news channels all competing for your attention. But don’t give up! Start small and try to remember to keep bringing your focus back to your breath, releasing your thoughts but also not judging yourself for having them. Try to turn off all devices around you and ask your friends and family to leave you in peace for the duration of your meditation.
Try setting aside two minutes a day for a week where you step away from duties and distractions and just sit with yourself. Use this time to breathe deeply into your stomach and feel into your body. At times your mind may be racing and you might feel as though this ‘relaxation’ is a waste of time, but try to persevere. With time, your inner chatter will begin to quieten down and you’ll start to feel peace and reap the benefits of stillness.
Once you’ve mastered two minutes, try to up your alone time to five and then ten minutes at a time. Many of us complain that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to ‘do nothing’ but when you begin to consciously look at your schedule, you’ll see that there are more moments than you think where you could squeeze in 5-10 minutes of nothingness.
Then, when you feel accomplished in finding stillness when just sitting or lying in silence you may want to attempt practicing the art of nothing while out and about in the world. This can be quite difficult as there will be distractions and temptations in your way, but focus on being mindful and remembering your breath and you might be surprised at how calm and collected you manage to stay despite being surrounded by noise or nature.
The final step is bringing the art of doing nothing into your everyday life, knowing that it is a practice you can tap into whenever you feel stressed, nervous or overwhelmed. Whether you’re in the workplace, stuck in a traffic jam or have just received an email that has made you angry or upset, take two minutes to practice nothingness and you’ll start to feel the benefits right away.
How do you find doing nothing? Have you mastered the art yet or is it something you are working towards? Let us know all about your practice in the comments below!