The Art of Doing Nothing

Why is doing nothing so hard?

 And not the ‘scrolling on your phone mindlessly online shopping nothing’, but absolutely nothing. Zip. Not practising gratitude, not meditating, not focussing on your breath or the different sensations in your body (read: meditating), and most of all not feeling guilty while you’re doing it. 

Doing nothing is unheard of in this day and age, and yet it’s all I seem to think about or want when I’m at my busiest…’I just wish I had nothing to do today’ I whinge. But sure enough, when that day eventually rolls around I avoid doing nothing like the plague. Some washing to hang out? Shit yeah. An article to read? A whole saved list! Delving into a deep hole of Wikipedia pages on my favourite celebrities? Yeah ok, unfortunately I have to admit I have wasted literal hours on this.

I guess what I’m saying is, is that doing nothing is one of the hardest things my counsellor has asked/suggested/instructed that I do. ‘It’s your homework!’ he exclaims, and every session I’m like 'yeah nah, I was busy' when in actual fact I just avoided it and did all of the things said above. See, doing nothing means being alone with my thoughts, and my brain’s telling me that those shitty feelings of guilt and shame will be the first to pop up, I just know I’ll think of all the times I’ve embarrassed myself..talked too loud, voiced an unpopular opinion, GOT TOO DRUNK, or was I rude? Oh god I was so rude! You get the gist. 

So I did a little experiment this week. I put on my big girl pants and I consciously did nothing, shame and guilt be damned. I was fidgety at first - looking at my watch, mentally making lists, remembering I had to google that Jimmy Fallon vid later…but as the minutes went by I freed up a little. It wasn’t so bad and after a little while I just let each thought float by, acknowledging it with as much love and compassion as I could muster (that’s a work in progress too btw). In the end I did this for 15 minutes and it felt really, really great.

Some fast facts for you on CONSCIOUSLY doing nothing:

  • Taking time to daydream can help with creativity. 

  • It can prevent burnout and increase your productivity.

  • Our brains depend on downtime, not just to recharge but also to process the information we are bombarded with. Hello better memory!

  • It can also increase your attention span.

And finally, some tips on ways you can actually get it done:

  • Try scheduling doing nothing in your calendar - even for 5 or 10 minutes.

  • Keep devices out of reach, even better if they’re out of the room!

  • Try going for a walk without listening to anything, no music, no podcasts. 

  • Same goes for driving, try to have a trip with no sound every now and then.

  • Schedule a massage or other treatment that forces you to stop with no distractions.

So now we have no excuses, go forth - do nothing! You have my permission.

Let me know how you go!

J x