Why “Doing Nothing” Is Good For Your Health

Let’s be honest, doing absolutely nothing is a true art form, that we all have mastered in our own individual way. Whether that’s binge watching three straight seasons of a show you’ve already watched twice, or baking and eating a dozen cookies, or even just laying outside in the sun for three hours, we all have our own versions of decompressing from the real world. After a hard day at work, the art of nothing can sometimes feel like all we have, and yet from a societal standpoint, it’s almost shameful to just relax and allow yourself to be lazy. There’s a general work ethic, especially in America, that tells us when we’re not occupying our time, we’re wasting time and that’s simply not the case. A day of full on low energy nothing is not only good for your mental health but physical as well!! 

Obviously doing nothing all day everyday isn’t good for your overall health and well-being, however, having your time to yourself every week is necessary for living a fulfilling life. Gretchen Robin is the author of “The Happiness Project” and she spoke to ‘Grateful’ magazine about how important leisure time actually is. 

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“Doing nothing is about making good use of your free time, whether that’s meditating, going for a walk, talking to friends or binge-watching TV shows. Leisure activities are not necessarily ‘doing nothing’ — but, they make us happy and shouldn’t be viewed as wasted time. The key question is: If you know that you feel happier when you give yourself that downtime, how do you make sure that you get it into your life? When [you] feel constant pressure to be more and more productive and more and more scheduled, how do you give yourself that opportunity?”

Robin mainly defines “doing nothing” as simply doing something that allows you to be centered in the present moment. Allowing ourselves to become fully present and not worried about our surrounding stresses in our lives (family, work, relationships, chores, etc.) becomes a very grounding experience. It also shows us that it is possible to just stop, breathe, and live in one particular moment without being overwhelmed, which becomes beneficial when we actually get overwhelmed. It becomes easier to remind ourselves that whatever specific stress we’re experiencing on a given day, is just an in the moment experience, and it too shall pass. 

Doing nothing also has great benefits for anxiety and depression, however it’s easy for it to be just as detrimental. When you don’t give yourself a proper break, and keep working to the point where you can’t recharge or relax, you burn yourself out. In that case, it’s more likely you’ll fall into destructive “doing nothing” habits such as eating an entire bag of greasy food multiple times a week. When you actually go out of your way to dedicate time for a specific leisure activity that centers you, and allows you to acknowledge the present, it leads to a stronger focus and more productive energy.

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The easiest way to relax your mind and body with nothingness and receive the positive benefits of it is to understand what true leisure is for you personally. Think about what’s actually mentally beneficial versus detrimental and depressive. For example, is watching another movie and eating another bag of chips truly going to make you happy? Or would you rather get out and do some retail therapy instead. Robin says it’s about separating activities that make you happy as opposed to things that just feel like lazy everyday habits. 

Schedule a specific time for your leisure. If you work a regular Monday to Friday job, schedule a Sunday afternoon of gardening and baking. Giving yourself a fixed date and time, even if it is just for doing nothing, can help ease you from living in a crazy work schedule and routine, into a work and relaxation routine. Change up your environment, remove distractions like electronics, procrastinate vacuuming and just center yourself on your personal leisure path. The more present you become, the more you’ll enjoy just doing nothing.