Doing nothing has gotten a bad rap over the years. It's often deemed "being lazy" or having no ambitions. The truth is, though, that is a long way from being accurate. Doing nothing is actually a skill that needs to be learned. it may seem on the surface that doing nothing is simply ceasing activity. And it is, but it's also far more difficult than you might think. Many great spiritual teachers throughout the centuries recognized that "doing" is a compulsion with humans. It is an addiction that gets rewarded with praise or big pay raises. Humans, an us frogs as well, are slowly learning that the best way for surviving our frantic and frenzied world is to learn the art of doing nothing. Then practice it from time to time. Here are five great reason to stop doing.
1. Doing nothing isn't really doing nothing. Unless you're dead, you're always doing something - even if it's just "savoring the pleasures of idleness." Psychologists don't view savoring as passive. It is a learnable skill about living in present moment awareness. Problems arise when we think of doing nothing as doing nothing "useful." Perhaps focusing on our senses and enjoying living in the moment is actually more important than "usefulness." We can begin by reframing our thinking. Instead of seeing nothing as doing nothing useful, let's begin to think about it as being synonymous with feeling alive.
2. Aimlessness, rest, and even boredom can boost creativity. many celebrated authors and artist incorporate a daily walk into their routines. Why? Because quiet time and being in nature boosts creativity. Ceasing to focus on our work can become a kind of "incubation" period that gives the unconscious time "to think of new and better solutions." Even boredom is useful. While working on mind-numbing chores, our brains will look for more creative ways of getting the task done. When you have no end in mind, you're less likely to exclude new ideas as irrelevant.
3. Too much busyness is counter-productive. Effort should never be confused with effectiveness. We all too often assume that if we're doing something, even trifling tasks, that they must be useful. We feel virtuous for having "stuck with it." Busyness can also be a defense mechanism for warding off unwanted and unpleasant thoughts and emotions. When we stop and do nothing, we can actually confront our problem and find a create solution for it.
4. The brain depends on downtown. Humans tend to treat themselves as machines. Humans will religiously change the oil on their car and have it serviced at the garage, but rarely take the time necessary to take care of themselves. "I'm too busy to eat, sleep, rest. relax (etc) is a common statement these days. Everyone is over-busy and over-burdened. There's no downtime. But the human body and the human brain aren't machines. They need proper care which includes time spent doing nothing. Humans need this time not only to "recharge their batteries" but to also process the data that everyone is inundated with, to consolidate memory, and to "reinforce learning by strengthening the neural pathways that make such feats possible."
5. You'll regain control of your attention. Don’t expect doing nothing to feel easy at first: resisting the urge to do things takes willpower. Busyness is seen as a form of laziness” – it’s a failure to withhold your attention from whatever random email, task or webpage lays claim to it. The challenge has never been harder than it is today. There is a constant battle for your attention. One trick, experts in the field tell us, is to schedule “do nothing” time, like you’d schedule tasks. Just don’t expect others to understand when you decline some social event on the grounds that you’re busy not being busy.
Now that you've read this blog, which completely contradicts its message of doing nothing, perhaps it's time to schedule a little of that downtime we all need.
After you've finished not celebrating anything by doing nothing, post your pictures and comments on social media using #nationaldonothingday.
See you all back here tomorrow...rested and refreshed.