“If you ever ask an adult what they did over the weekend and they say they didn’t do anything their faces light up!” – John Mulaney, New In Town
Hands up if you get the “I did nothing” glow too! I know I do. John Mulaney is right on the money. It feels so flipping good to have a few moments (or a full weekend) of nothing.
But it’s super hard to set time aside for a little nothing because we always have so much to do. And hitting pause can create a ton of guilt because we’re being unproductive. When we aren’t doing anything important are we wasting our time?
Heck no sweet friends! Making time to do nothing actually makes you way better at getting things done. And supports your mental health too. It’s a magical addition to your self-care routine!
Everyone benefits when you allow yourself to relax and unwind. So if you find yourself feeling “nothing guilt”, or simply need a powerful reminder to take a little extra time for yourself, this post if for you!
Let’s talk about why you should make more time to do nada and all the goodness you have to gain from it!
Why You Need To Make Time To Do Nothing
Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in the middle of a never ending to-do list? Because I know I’ve been there! There are always a million things that need to be done. Many of us work our booties off all day only to come home and work even more. But how often do you sit back and literally do nothing?
Even in our free time, we often fill the void with other activities… from checking e-mails, to returning texts and phone calls, to doing all of those chores that seriously seem to never end.
Doing nothing can truly leave us feeling guilty. But if there’s one thing you add to your self-care routine it definitely needs to be time to do nothing.
I promise that it’s anything but a waste of time. And it won’t be boring (doing nothing doesn’t mean you have to sit and stare at a wall, you have my word!)
Here are 4 awesome benefits to moments of nothing and a few ways to work that into your routine:
1. Your Brain Really Needs A Break
We are all pretty overstimulated in this day and age. We might as well be existing in a perpetual state of informational overload. In fact, a 2010 survey by LexisNexis discovered that many of us spend more than half of our work days simply receiving and digesting information.
Add on the duties and expectations that we need to cram in there somewhere, and all of the other to-dos we have on our lists, and it’s pretty clear that we rarely take a mental break.
Even when we’re on vacation, many of us are in the habit of taking work home and checking our e-mails.
Basically, we’re almost always on. Making decisions and judgements calls and getting stuff done. But our brains are dying for a little free time. And there are consequences when we don’t allow for that.
Have you ever heard of decision fatigue? Making tons of decisions and judgement calls throughout the day can actually wear away at our willpower and mess with our ability to make decisions.
Sounds bonkers, right? But it happens to the best of us! In fact, this study found that judges were more likely to grant a prisoner parole after they had taken a break. The longer they had been working the more likely they were to simply say no. Keeping things the same is the easiest and safest route. Decision fatigue tends to push our choices in that direction.
But instead of pushing our brains to the point where they can’t easily weight pros and cons and make decisions, we should instead say YES to breaks. A little nothing does the mind good!
2. Doing Nothing Allows Us to Reconnect with Ourselves
From a young age, we’re taught to keep busy. If we aren’t doing something productive, it’s easy to feel guilty and irresponsible. But busy-fever doesn’t do us any good either. Not only does a state of constant busyness increase our risk of burnout, it limits our chances to connect with ourselves.
When you make time to do nothing, you have the opportunity reflect and examine your thoughts and emotions.
Periods of mindfulness allow us to truly get to know ourselves and our emotional state, which may even help to improve our mental health. While more studies are certainly needed, mindfulness has shown that it helps to relieve stress, anxiety and depression (source).
Not to mention, making time to reflect on your thoughts, feelings and emotions and truly getting to know yourself is so important. Self-love is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Developing a kind and loving relationship with yourself is never a bad thing.
When you know and love yourself you take care of yourself. You make decisions from a place of love and respect for yourself. And you treat yourself with kindness. Any opportunity to further connect with yourself is amazing.
So let’s hurry up and do nothing baby! We’ve got nothing to lose and tons to gain!
3. Your Attention Span Will Thank You
While it might seem silly to say, making time to do nothing a priority actually helps to replenish our attention span. And when you really take the time to think about it, it all starts to make sense.
How often are you in a state of multitasking? Reading these e-mails, finishing that report, getting ready for this meeting, thinking about tonight’s supper and the dishes that won’t clean themselves… We’re often in a position where our minds need to wander from thought to thought, task to task, with very little rest in between. But that doesn’t exactly create focus – which is terrible for our attention spans.
When you make time to disconnect and give your brain a break from it’s daily thought marathon you actually come out more attentive and productive.
For example, two 2007 studies showed that those who learned how to meditate had better working memories and attention spans than those who didn’t while writing a test (source 1, source 2). And they even outperformed their non-meditating counterparts.
Why? Because the opportunity to do nothing productive and give their minds a break actually helped them to become more focused, which allowed for better concentration and memory retention. Pretty cool eh?
Learning to unplug and be mindful boosts your performance, which is really an awesome win! And when you know that taking the time to relax actually makes you more productive, you have nothing to feel guilty about.
4. It Breeds Creativity
You know what happens when you do nothing? Tons of uninterrupted free thinking! And that might as well be creativity fuel. Why? Because it gives our thoughts an opportunity to wander freely and our minds the opportunity to imagine.
In his paper Doing Nothing and Nothing to Do: The Hidden Value of Empty Time and Boredom, Manfred Kets De Vries, a Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change, states that:
“Doing nothing is a great way to induce states of mind that nurture our imagination… seemingly inactive states of mind can be an incubation period for future bursts of creativity.”
Quiet time gives rise to ideas. You can’t be creative when you’re constantly focused on absorbing information and completing a list of tasks. So take a step back and let your brain rest. You never know what wonderful things it might come up with.
So What Exactly Should You Do When You “Do Nothing”?
It’s not going to be boring, I promise. Making time to do nothing doesn’t mean that you have to sit there staring to at the ceiling while twiddling your thumbs. It’s more about doing nothing useful or important. We’re talking about idle time savouring the moment and focusing on simple things that relax you and bring you joy.
You need to disconnect and relax, so whatever works for you is wonderful.
- Put away your computer
- Get out in nature
- Practice mindfulness meditation
- Take a long bath
- Colour or doodle
- Get lost in a good book
- Write in a journal
- Go for a walk
- Have a nap
- Play a video game
Honestly, the options are endless (see – doing nothing is far more entertaining that it sounds!) What matters is that you choose to do something that you find relaxing. And that you don’t feel the need to be productive.
And, of course, it’s all about balance! But most of us have being busy down pat. It’s time to focus on learning how not to be busy. And making time to do nothing a priority is a really awesome place to start.
If you find yourself feeling stressed out and unsure of how to make self-care and relaxation a priority, talking to a therapist might help. Not sure how to find a therapist near you? Check out this incredibly useful article by BetterHelp: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/how-do-i-find-a-therapist-near-me/
To add to the goodness, here’s a free self care planner – let’s make self care a priority, because you deserve it. You can download it right here or by filling out the form below.
Do you make time to do nothing a priority? What are your favourite ways to unwind? Let me know in the comments below!
Health and love,
Thought of the day: I give myself permission to simply rest and be. I am allowed to be unproductive.
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