In today’s busy world, there’s one thing most of us are pretty bad at, and that’s chilling out and doing nothing.
We all know that practicing self-care and relaxing it important, but even when we do this, there’s usually some element of being productive about it- maybe we’re doing yoga, or meditating and attempting to empty our mind, or making a healthy meal or going for a hike. But just doing nothing at all? Not so much.
In our culture, doing nothing is considered lazy, but to the Dutch, it’s a healthy daily practice called niksen. Niksen roughly translates to “doing nothing,” and it’s the simple concept of doing nothing at all. Not meditating, not trying to clear your thoughts, but simply hanging out and letting your mind wander. The Dutch are ranked amongst the happiest people in the world, so it looks like they’re on to something!
Niksen isn’t a passive practice either- it’s not catching yourself staring out the window when you’re meant to be working but rather actively setting aside time to sit and just be.
So, what’s the point of all of this nothing-ness?
Our culture doesn’t value doing nothing, but taking a break from our constant need to either be productive or distract ourselves with our phones can have huge benefits on our overall health. First off, it gives your brain a chance to unwind, recalibrate, and destress, so it’s really great for managing stress and anxiety.
Second, it helps to fire up the creative side of our brain. When we’re constantly doing, we’re using the problem solving and more rational side of our brain, but when we just stop and chill, it gives the creative side a chance to shine. That’s why so many people find they get their best ideas in the shower!
Practicing niksen sounds simple in theory, and in many ways it is, but for those of us who aren’t used to it, it can feel challenging at first. We’re so used to always being on the go and being productive that it can actually be hard to just sit there and do nothing.
If you want to start practicing niksen and reaping its benefits, start by setting aside a few minutes a day to just be (putting your phone in the other room can be helpful so you’re not tempted to pick it up and start scrolling). If you find yourself turning it into a meditation by trying to focus on your breath or notice your thoughts, stop. This isn’t about mindfulness; it’s about letting your mind wander and just being.
Many people find that being out in nature helps them to let their mind wander, so if you’re having trouble practicing at home, try taking your practice to the park or beach.
While it may feel challenging at first, you’ll probably be surprised at how quickly you start to enjoy it! It feels almost indulgent to give yourself time to just sit and be.