A time for…nothing
When was the last time you did nothing? I mean, really did nothing. I’m not talking about sitting and scrolling aimlessly through Facebook or Instagram. Or sitting with your eyes glued to the TV. I’m talking about sitting, with only yourself…reflecting and relaxing.
I really believe that the act of doing nothing is a lost art. Our busy lives and hectic schedules, coupled with our attachment to pocket-sized technology, have led to us forgetting how to enjoy the simple things in life.
Of course, I’m guilty of this myself. I feel like as soon as I wake up in the morning, a switch turns on. And until my head hits the pillow in the evening, that switch isn’t turned off for a moment. It’s the switch that causes us to seek stimulation from external sources. I turn the TV on whilst I’m getting ready for work – just to hear some background noise. The radio in the car goes on to drown-out the noise of the traffic. My working hours go by so quickly that I sometimes have to be reminded to stop for lunch. And by the time I’ve made it home – between seeing friends or getting to the gym, or finishing off some work from the day, I can’t even imagine where the time went.
But my point isn’t that we’re simply too busy to have time to do nothing. What I mean is that we don’t know how. During my day, there are moments of pause. Moments where I can catch my breath and think about what I’m going to do next. But it’s what I choose to do with those moments that’s letting me down. I don’t choose to close my eyes, breathe deeply and calm my mind. I don’t choose to sit clutching a cup of coffee and stare off into some distant view.
Instead, I pick up my phone, turn on the TV or radio, or make a call. Before I know it, 30 minutes of completely wasted ‘switched-on’ time have passed.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’ll just sit here and watch TV for 30 minutes before I start my work,” or, “I’ll just quickly check my Facebook to see what’s happening,” and the time seems to go so quickly that ‘a moment’ or ’30 minutes’ turns into an hour or two? That’s because this isn’t quality ‘switched-off time’. When our minds are stimulated by TV, or music, or images on social media, we enter some kind of zone where the world gets drowned out and time seems to speed up. If we were honest with ourselves and added up the number of minutes (or should I say, hours!) we spend throughout the day, here and there on meaningless tasks, we’d realise the opportunity for quality down-time that we’re missing. We have the time…it’s just that we don’t know what to do with it.
Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of the Italians’ book. They’re well-known for a concept called “La Dolce Far Niente,” which means ‘the sweetness of doing nothing’. For the Italians, their daily activities are influenced by their instincts. If they feel like wandering home in the afternoon to have a nap, they will. If they feel like stopping at a local café just to watch the world go by, they’ll do that. It’s engrained in their culture that their lives should not be ruled by schedules – instead, they are the ones in charge. Instead of keeping running on the constant treadmill of life, they step off, and do nothing.
Now is the ideal time to try this out for yourself. The weather is cooler so taking a walk with only your own thoughts is the perfect way to try out the art of doing nothing. Just give it a go. Of course, we all have commitments – but whilst you go from one activity to another, find time for 15 minutes to yourself. Instead of opening your laptop or switching on your iPad to kill time, put the technology down and collect your thoughts. Go for a walk, or even simply pull up a chair next to your window and stare off into the distance. Calm your mind, shut-out thoughts about your tasks for the day, breathe deeply, and relax. La Dolce Far Niente.
We’d love to know if any of you try this out! Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know if you mastered the art of doing nothing.