The importance of doing nothing

Drum English|4 June 2020

The importance of doing nothing
We’ve all been forced to slow down because of the global pandemic – and perhaps this gentler pace is just what you need
CAROLYN TATE
IF THERE’S one thing lockdown has forced most of us to do it’s to slow down. You might still be busy with home schooling, cooking and cleaning, but that frenetic rushing around is just not happening anymore. You’re no longer dashing between home and school, work and extramural activities, gym and doctors’ appointments.

We’ve unexpectedly been thrown into the Dutch practice of niksen. Put simply, niksen is the art of doing nothing – or of doing something without a sense of purpose, such as staring out the window or listening to music.

It sounds simple, but for many of us who are used to ticking off lists and achieving goals, niksen can be a challenge. Yet lockdown is the perfect opportunity to learn to do it and to reap the many rewards it can have for our mental health.

THE UPSIDE OF NOTHING

Experts say niksen offers long-term health benefits, from stress relief to boosting creativity, and converts say they sleep better and handle stress more effectively throughout the day.

Chronic stress is all around us, and with burnout a real possibility in a fastpaced life, niksen is a coping technique that might actually help.

With niksen, the idea is to be intentional about doing nothing at all.

“You’re taking the time to sit there and not do anything on purpose,” is how Netherlands-based journalist Olga Mecking described niksen to NBC News.

“You could be gazing out a window, but you’re not observing your thoughts or letting them go or doing anything like that. You’re just being.”

THE NEED FOR NOTHING

“Doing nothing helps return us to our natural state,” says Samantha Taylor, founder of The Nurture Project, an Australian organisation that aims to help people lead lives free from anxiety.

“It is turning our backs on the hyper-connectedness of our world and just being.”

The modern world, she says, is “a perfect storm in terms of generating the preconditions for stress, anxiety and depression.

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4 June 2020