Here are five simple ways to grab hold of the sweet enjoyment of idleness and reap the benefits.
1. Practice makes perfect
Don't expect to be good at it right away. Doing nothing, surprisingly, takes practice. We're too used to reaching for our phones, or turning on the television. In fact our concentration span has decreased due to an increase in available content.
So get ready to be uncomfortable, and schedule in a bit of practice. Maybe, at the moment, you can sit in a comfy armchair after lunch for an hour with a book (if needed). Or perhaps you might wrap up warm and sit outside, listening to the world go by – wine optional.
Take advantage of the season and get a bit of practice in.
Remember how good dogs are at doing literally nothing...? Well, that's years of practice.
2. Stretch out moments of enjoyment
What, for you, sparks true happiness? Is it a meal with friends? A walk in nature? Whatever it is, every now and again, stretch it out. Linger over dinner for hours. Pack extra snacks and water to head out for a longer hike. Get lost in the moment, don't think about anything else, just enjoy.
It may seem indulgent. Impossible perhaps, when you have a young family or responsibilities galore. But if you can, every now and then, schedule in some 'stretched out moments' of pure enjoyment just for you. It could be one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical well being.
3. Reframe the concept of 'work'
We live in a non-stop world. We have access to our emails on our phones, rarely use up all of our holiday (especially at the moment), are constantly pinged with notifications of all descriptions. In short, we're burning the candle at both/all ends.
Why? Because our culture has told us that work is valuable (which it is) but that rest is lazy (which it's not).
In order to thrive, and enjoy the art of doing nothing, we need to reframe the concept of work. To accept that we cannot, and should not be, "on" all the time.
So perhaps carve moments of rest into your day - get up every half hour and stretch your legs, actually take that lunch break. Try and finish at 5pm. Read that article from the Sunday supplement with a cup of tea. Plan and schedule it into your day. The time before and just after this moment, will probably prove to be your most productive work yet.
4. Get serious about rest
Rest doesn't just happen. See above.
We have to plan it in – regularly. In fact, rest should be part of your daily schedule. Morning - wake up, brush your teeth, do nothing. Or if that's not realistic (we hear you), maybe you're more of an evening person, so carve out an hour or two for leisure after work. Even just 20 minutes.
Schedule. It. In. It will feel alien at first. That's OK. But soon it will become a part of you.
5. Pick up a hobby
We know, how can you do nothing, whilst doing something?
Winston Churchill once said, "It is not enough merely to switch off the lights which play upon the main and ordinary field of interest; a new field of interest must be illuminated."
We've heard of deep work – we need deep play. Moments where our attention is so fully focused on enjoyment that nothing can distract us. Ever seen a five- year-old fully immersed in imaginative play...? That is pure deep play at its purest and it's magical to watch.
So while, in the strictest sense this isn't about 'doing nothing', we thought it was an important concept to include. Consider activities like running or painting. They require concentration but also allow the mind to be thinking and resting in the background.
You'll be surprised how beneficial this active rest can be. Just like those aha moments you get in the shower - when we give our minds something else to work on, our subconscious will start solving problems in the background.
Want to learn how to get better at doing nothing?
Deep dive further with these three articles to guide you.
- The Culture Trip, Il Dolce Far Niente: Mastering the Italian Art of Doing Nothing
- Psyche, How to rest well