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The Art of Doing Nothing by Luz Dayrit, PT,DPT

The Art of Doing Nothing. Hearing it for the first time feels unusual, right? It’s just that we are so used to people encouraging us to always move; that the “art of doing nothing” feels like a silly excuse to be lazy. But come to think of it, what is the crime in “doing nothing”? Why do we wince at the idea of not doing anything? We can attribute how we think about "doing nothing “ to the way the world wants us to think that the ideal lifestyle is to be busy. For some reason, we grew up with the idea that our productivity equates to our value and that we should always be achieving things in order to keep up with the world. The Italians, on the other hand, encourage us to think differently. The Italians live by a concept they call dolce far niente which promotes the idea of finding pleasure in idleness and relaxation. "Dolce far niente or” the sweetness of "doing nothing” is a way of life that encourages us to enjoy the present moment and to be content with the moment as it is and not more.

Contrary to popular belief, the art of doing nothing actually means something and doing nothing does not actually mean we are doing “nothing”. According to psychologists, we are always doing something and the art of doing nothing actually means to not do anything useful or with a particular purpose. By not doing something useful it allows us to be present in the moment without expectations. To do something with a particular purpose is future -oriented and by doing nothing it gives us a chance to just feel and do nothing more. Another idea that we need to debunk is the idea that effort always results in effectiveness. We think that being busy will automatically bring out our best ideas. But neuroscientists have discovered in fact that our brain depends on downtime to process data, instill learning and consolidate memory in our brain. So, in other words, doing nothing for a moment not only makes us mindful but it also helps us to be our most intelligent self.

Like a magic trick, the art of doing nothing has the power to make our problems feel small. Doing nothing detaches us from the fast and stressful operations of the world and allows us to reconnect with ourselves and our core. Having this opportunity for introspection gives us the opportunity to reflect on what really matters to us and gives us clarity on the things we should focus on. In effect, it lets us realize that everything that we are stressing about like work deadlines and comparison traps is only secondary and that everything we need is already with us. Having this chance for reflection also gives us the chance to think about who we really are as individuals and reflect on the ways we could bring out our happiest and best self. As Dr Sue Smalley,Founder of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC), puts it, “We need time doing ‘nothing’ to be our best selves: well-rounded and creative human beings. The ‘doing’ side of our nature needs a ‘being’ side to be in balance.”

When we have free time, we have this urge to immediately do something to fill it. Dr. Smalley says that this is because we live in a “work -consumed society” that will generate guilt and perceptions of laziness if we aren’t working all the time”. But in these moments where we overwhelm ourselves with work; did it actually make us feel satisfied the way we hoped it would make us be? Growing up, we always had this idea that being busy will make us happy because people who are busy are thought of highly in our society. But believing this concept only takes away our sense of self and only leaves us feeling empty . This is why it is important to know that this culture of having all work and no rest should not be glorified at all. It is not only destroys our physical and mental health but it also affects our relationship with our families.

What other people decide to do with their time, frankly, is none of our business. But no matter what our state in life is, we could all use a moment of doing something un-useful from time to time. Everyone has their own take on what it really means “to do nothing” , but to simply just be is the true art of doing nothing. To simply just eat, to simply just bike, to simply just appreciate life for what it is, is what we sometimes miss in life and what we should consider a necessity. We are constantly chasing goals that we lose sight of things that actually mean to us deeply. If there is one thing that the Art of Doing Nothing wants us to learn, it would be to just breathe. Life is too short to take things too seriously. Do something that makes you happy today and be careful where you focus your energy because as Lao Tzu said , “Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.”

Colleen Long.The Art of Doing Nothing. (September,4,2014)

Rachelle Williams. The Importance of Doing Nothing:The Art of Relaxation.(October.2.2019)

Why Doing Nothing is Actually the Best Thing You Can Do. (December,6,2019)

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