The Case for Doing Nothing

just relax

We hear it all the time: every moment is precious.

We know that we only have so much time…

And that no single second should be wasted.

So we pack our days with meaningful activities and take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way.

Because we only have one life to live, right? And a meaningful life equals a full life.

No more down time

We listen to self help audio books while we’re doing the dishes.

We do push ups while we’re watching TV with our family.

And we catch up on emails while we’re watching our kid play softball.

Heck, I’m even doing it right now—writing this post while I walk my dog.

We multitask. And we’re good at it. Constantly trying to suck every morsel out of life.

But is this really how we were meant to live?

Are we meant to be human productivity machines—essentially robots?

Or are we meant to enjoy life… doing meaningful things with lots of wonderful, nothing-filled breaks?

I say the latter.

In fact, I’d argue it’s as important for our minds as it is for our bodies to do nothing on a regular basis.

Because no matter what you’re doing, you need to take time to recover. To relax.

But in the internet age, it seems we’ve forgotten how.

So in case you’ve forgotten what it means to do nothing, here are some ways to start:

  • Go to the beach and stare at the ocean. Don’t read. Don’t do jumping jacks. Just stare, and try and emulate the calmness of the water.
  • Take a nap in the sun. Or the shade. Whatever’s more appealing to you.
  • Do housework, and instead of putting on your headphones, let your own mind entertain you. If you’re used to always listening to something, this might be torture at first, but you’ll get used to it after a while—and you might even learn to like it.
  • Read a book because you want to, not because you feel you have to. I recommend stories (fiction or nonfiction) for this, not self help or business books. Stories take you into another world, and that in itself is a wonderful form of relaxation.
  • The next time you’re waiting in line, don’t whip out your smart phone or e-reader right away. Take the time to observe the people and atmosphere around you. You might learn something from it.
  • Take a few minutes (or more) a day to unwind. Do yoga, meditate, take a leisurely stroll, play fetch with your dog. Watching TV doesn’t count.

Get in the habit of doing nothing once in a while. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

It’s not a matter of “killing” time, but of enjoying it. – Leo Babauta

How do you relax? Let me know in the comments below.

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7 thoughts on “The Case for Doing Nothing”

  1. I totally agree with this.

    Doing nothing is lovely, but hard sometimes. More often, I try to focus on just doing one thing at a time. When I’m completely focused on whatever I’m doing, I tend to enjoy myself more.

    So, I run without music and really notice the sounds and sensations of running. I appreciate the nuances more. Same goes for driving. I love music, but when I’m driving on a nice road, I turn it off and focus more on the drive. There’s even joy to be found in washing dishes. Best of all, practicing being present when talking and listening to people has led to much deeper connections.

    It seems obvious that experiences will be heightened if we’re focused on them, but it took me a long time to learn that. 🙂

  2. Good Reminder to not try and fill your day with constant motion and productivity. I love walks with my dog, because they are so relaxing and simple. Good way to relieve stress, and refocus on the simple things in life.

  3. I used to be this way too- I’d listen to podcasts on my walks, read self help books on the train. I got totally burned out and cringe a bit when I think of “absorbing” anything new. I enjoy runs now with no music on, no podcasts…just quiet thought. I think multitasking has a place, but my brain is still recovering from 2 years of being a grad student and entrepreneur…I need brain space for golden silence!

  4. During my morning commute, instead of radio or mp3, SILENCE. The hum of the car to the road is a good time to focus on my thoughts !!


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