For the longest time, I was ashamed to admit that I enjoyed doing nothing. I don’t need to keep my hands busy or my mind engaged. I don’t rush to work out or practice a hobby when I finish work.
But whenever I revealed this to people, they’d look at me funny. Like I was lazy.
Actually, what I’ve come to learn is that there are many overlooked benefits of doing absolutely nothing.
Of course, I’m not suggesting adopting this approach 24/7! But from time to time, switching off and simply “being” can be a great way to reset and relax, amongst other advantages.
Let’s explore this in a bit more detail:
1) It can reduce stress
As I mentioned, doing nothing can be a great way to relieve stress. When your mind isn’t concentrating on a task, it’s free to daydream and detach.
Your thoughts come and go, and your body gets a well-deserved break.
Now, I can understand if you think that going for a run, cleaning, or even watching a calming video on YouTube is more beneficial in destressing, but it’s not a competition.
Doing nothing is just another method, another tool to add to your box when it comes to relaxing.
I personally enjoy taking a few minutes to sit outside after I finish work. I don’t tend to the plants or sweep the porch. I just allow my mind to focus on the green of the trees and the sounds of the birds in the background.
It’s a calm moment that I’ve grown to love. Give it a try, you may even find it more relaxing than your usual go-to methods.
2) It can enhance creativity
Ever notice how when you’re in the shower or lying in bed at night, your mind sometimes comes up with the craziest ideas?
In those moments, you’re not confined to thinking about any one particular thing. You’re not focussing on work, or on making dinner or running errands.
And this can enhance creativity.
“While most of us find it hard to tolerate, in many instances boredom can be a prelude to something. It can trigger our imagination and creativity. In a sense, boredom can be seen as a liminal space, a critical resource that pushes us to seek the unfamiliar.”
Think of it this way – when you’re still, your mind has a chance to venture into places it wouldn’t normally when you’re rushing around.
3) It can serve as an emotional reset
When you’ve had a tough time emotionally, how do you deal with it?
Do you vent to friends? Do you distract yourself by watching TV?
Consider doing absolutely nothing instead. I recently had a turbulent couple of days with my family. When I got home, I felt emotionally drained.
My friends were eager to meet up and hear all about it, but I decided to take a day to decompress and do nothing. (Okay, I did some light chores but in the afternoon, I didn’t lift a finger).
If I’d read a book at that moment or turned on the TV, I wouldn’t have been mentally working things out, or allowing my emotions to process the events of the days before.
As INSEAD notes:
“When you allow yourself time to do nothing, you give your brain a chance to process experiences, consolidate memories, and reinforce learning. Your resting state is a powerful tool for regulating your emotions and maintaining the ability to focus.”
4) It’s a form of mindfulness
Another overlooked benefit of doing absolutely nothing is it can be considered a form of mindfulness.
Practicing this regularly can positively affect mental well-being, as well as:
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Improve blood pressure
- Improve sleep
- Help with chronic pain
Not to mention, when you allow your mind and body to disengage, you’re more likely to become more aware of thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
In other words, you can get back to yourself instead of being distracted by the world around you.
5) It can promote appreciation for little things
We all go through periods when we’re so rushed off our feet, that we barely have time to notice the beauty in the simple things around us.
But taking a few minutes a day to simply “be” can allow you to notice your surroundings.
I’ll let you in on something slightly strange that I enjoy watching when I do nothing – light. I love seeing how light falls onto certain parts of a room, illuminating it and creating shadows.
It might seem like something insignificant, but in reality, it’s very calming.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that humans weren’t put on earth simply to rush around, working all day and trying to be productive.
I think that when we do that, we lose touch with nature, and with ourselves.
Doing nothing allows us a minute or five to reconnect and simply exist.
6) It can restore physical energy
Now for a more obvious overlooked benefit – doing absolutely nothing could be essential in healing your body physically.
A while back I spoke to a cousin of mine who struggles with painful periods. She doses herself up full of medicine just so she can remain productive.
I advised her to take the day off and simply rest. Don’t cook. Don’t clean. Don’t feel the need to accomplish anything.
Simply focus on what the body needs.
Recently, she told me she feels much better when her periods hit. She’s less stressed because she now takes time to do nothing. She allows her body to regain energy and heal.
The same can apply if you’ve been ill, had an injury, or are just generally tired from running around all day.
7) It can improve relationships
We’ve spoken primarily about the benefits of doing absolutely nothing on your own, but what about with others?
Think back to when you were a kid or a teenager. Your friends would come to hang out and sometimes you’d just chill together, doing nothing but talking.
Well, you can do the same as adults.
I noticed that my relationship with my partner deepened when we stopped filling our time with constant activities. Instead, a couple of times a week we’ll both just sit together.
Either in silence or chatting, but either way, it’s a time to bond and reconnect.
8) It can improve focus and concentration
And finally, while it might sound counterproductive, doing nothing can actually increase focus and concentration.
As the New York Times explains:
“More and more of us find ourselves unable to juggle overwhelming demands and maintain a seemingly unsustainable pace. Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less.”
Give it a go – the next time you’re lagging at your desk, take a few minutes to just sit and do nothing.
You might find your focus resets and you come back to work feeling a bit more refreshed, more than if you spend those few minutes rushing around to get a coffee, for example.
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