It’s a crisp Sunday morning and I’m sitting on my patio, sipping coffee and doing nothing but taking in the beauty of the forest and mountains. I’m not listening to music, checking email or social media, or making notes for my next post.
I’m doing absolutely nothing.
It’s taken me a while to get to this point. I can waste time with the best of them, but doing nothing with purposeful intention is an entirely different experience, one that comes with an impressive list of benefits.
Mastering the art of doing nothing is not as easy as one might imagine.
It’s common in today’s crazy busy world to feel time-starved, yet most of us fill a good chunk of our days with activities and distractions like watching TV, checking email, texting, endlessly scrolling through social media and assorted general busyness. We might even try to convince ourselves these activities are relaxing, minor when compared to work or other obligations, but if your attention is required (and very likely divided by some form of multitasking), then these activities are nevertheless draining your energy.
The Benefits of Doing Nothing
In our productivity-obsessed world, we tend to snub our noses at the notion of spending time doing absolutely nothing or simply letting our mind wander. But rather than being lazy or selfish, periods of doing nothing (on purpose) can calm frayed nerves and melt away stress, boost energy and creativity, and make you more focused and productive when you do work.
I’ve always considered the morning walk I take with my dog Lucy to be relaxing, my time to do nothing but think and enjoy nature. But once I began paying attention I realized it was something quite different. Lucy is a curious bundle of high energy. She takes in every sight and sound, rushing from one discovery to another and if I don’t watch her every minute she will quickly scarf down any yummy surprises she finds on the ground along the trails where we hike.
An invitation to a nasty case of diarrhea.
Then there is her inherent dislike of other dogs. In a town known for its love of fur puppies, it’s not uncommon to come across other people on the trail with their dogs.
Things can get ugly fast if I’m not on guard.
As if there isn’t enough already going on in my head, I often come up with answers to problems or ideas for new posts so I carry a notepad with me to jot these little epiphanies down. My point is that even the most enjoyable activity can create a low level of stress that saps our energy.
Each of us needs to occasionally withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need time to wander aimlessly or sit on a park bench, to breathe and observe the mysteries of the world.
An Easy Way to Begin
There is no right or wrong way to the art of doing nothing, and you don’t need to set aside a lot of time. You’ll be amazed at the benefits you’ll enjoy from practicing just ten to fifteen minutes a day. Keeping this in mind, I’d like to share with you a yoga pose that is a super simple way to get started. All you do is lie on your back on the floor (or a nice cushy exercise mat) with your legs up against the wall. That’s it, you just try to clear your mind, relax and lie like that for at least 10 to 15 minutes.
It’s helpful to see how to get into position so I’ve included a link to a tutorial video at the end of the post.
As simple as it is, this is a powerful restorative pose that helps send blood flow to your core, eases stress, does wonders for back pain, helps you sleep, calms your nerves, relieves swollen ankles, varicose veins, and headaches and improves digestion.
At first, I felt pretty antsy, thinking about all of the things I should be doing, occasionally wondering why I was doing this, and even had a clock sitting next to me to keep track of the time, which I quickly realized pretty much defeated the whole purpose of the exercise. It took about a week before I began to fully relax and actually found myself looking forward to these brief sessions.
What I love about this simple practice of self-care is that you can do it any time of the day or night. If the only quiet time you have is after your family goes to bed you can still reap the full benefits. In fact, I now do this twice a day, as a mid-day break and just before bed and I find it relaxes me so much I’m able to drop off to sleep much faster than I used to.
Instead of counting the days until the weekend or your next vacation, imagine what a difference it would make to your quality of life if you treated a moment of doing nothing like an actual event rather than an afterthought?
You can turn grabbing a quick cup of coffee into a moment of renewal by stepping outside to enjoy just ten minutes of fresh air, savor the flavor of the coffee. Truly enjoy the moment.
Maybe the next time you find yourself waiting in a line or at the doctor’s office, instead of using your free moments to check email one last time or scroll through social media, try to do nothing but focus on your breathing or simply let your mind wander.
What can you do today to begin embracing the art of doing nothing?