It’s Monday afternoon and I am truly enjoying my day off. Having nowhere to go and nothing to do, I decided to spend my me-time lying on the grass in the pine forest and writing about the benefits of doing nothing. I only have one day per week, and it’s been a while since the last time I could actually indulge in idleness without feeling guilty about it.
One would think that, in a place such as the Gredos Mountains, an idyllic middle of nowhere in Central Spain, the rhythm of life is much slower, and the people not so busy as the city dwellers… The bucolic view of herds of horses, cows, and sheep grazing together with mountains in the background is kind of a camouflage. In fact, the inhabitants of my village are extremely busy people. When they’re not working their asses off in their businesses, they work part-time somewhere else, or go to music, theatre, or dance classes, or go running, or attend the fiestas in the neighboring villages, or do anything to avoid reflecting upon their lives.
Compared to that, my way of spending free time is seen by the fellow villagers as either unforgivably wasteful, or a luxury that only a few can afford. Inactivity is nothing to be ashamed of. After an intense and physical work full of draining human interaction, that’s exactly what I need to recharge.
Honestly, I am sick of all the motivational bullshit self-proclaimed coaches feed us and all the time-management books that teach us to do more in a shorter time, so we don’t waste a second. Western society admires people who work hard, do things all the time and are as busy as a bee. That’s what being productive is about, right? Nope. Call me lazy, but I strongly believe that doing nothing is vital for one’s mental health and well-being.
Yes, you got it right: doing nothing is good for you, and it’s been scientifically proven.
The Benefits Of Doing Nothing…
1. Aimlessness boosts your creativity.
According to Andrew Smart, the author of Autopilot: The Art And Science Of Doing Nothing, relaxing your mind and giving your thoughts a chance to wander stimulates your brain to combine data into new concepts. The best ideas often invade our minds when we are idle, so no wonder that artists, scientists and philosophers like to make idleness a part of their work routine. Our brains need downtime to get inspired.
2. Idleness improves your memory.
Numerous studies have proved that when you are learning new ideas or skills, the best way to consolidate your memory is by taking a nap, or at least, giving your brain some time off afterwards.
3. Better focus.
4. Doing nothing helps you optimize your productivity.
Paradoxically, one of the benefits of doing nothing is an increase of one’s productivity. Busyness tends to be confused with effectiveness, which is why most employers hate seeing their employees do nothing. However, the most enlightened companies such as Apple and Google know that allowing their employees to rest and disconnect actually improves their productivity.
Also, being lazy, I dedicate a lot of thought to optimizing certain processes so I can spend more time doing nothing, which is my favorite thing to do.
5. Doing nothing gives you happiness.
The philosopher Bertrand Russel, from whom I borrowed the title for this post, stated in his essay In Praise of Idleness:
A great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.
Busyness is too much doing and not enough being. Distracting ourselves with excessive work, watching news on TV, browsing social media, reading emails, or texting only adds to one’s stress, anxiety, or other mental health issues. Overwhelmed by all those stimuli, we get absent-minded and miss the gift of being alive. On the other hand, doing nothing is, in fact, a mindfulness practice, and it makes people happy. Slowing down allows you to face your uncomfortable emotions and let them go.
Learn To Rest
When was the last time when you actually did nothing without remorse? You deserve to give your body and your brain some time off. Next time you have a chance to rest, don’t try to immediately catch up with unanswered emails or postponed domestic chores… Dedicate an entire day to idleness and consciously enjoy the benefits of doing nothing.
Have you ever heard about karoshi – the Japanese term for “overwork death”? I assure you that, in contrast to chronic overworking, a bit of dolce far niente has never killed anyone.
Autopilot: The Art And Science Of Doing Nothing by Andrew Smart
In Praise Of Idleness by Bertrand Russell