Why is it so Hard for Me to Do Nothing?

On a Sunday afternoon filled with playoff football, I was ready to hunker down and watch a whole lot of TV.  But then it hit me — shouldn’t I be doing something?  House cleaning?  Meal planning?  Homework?  There must be something I should be doing. I looked at my husband who had also hunkered down, and asked him if he felt like he should be doing something.  He replied, “No”.  I pressed on:

Me:  Why don’t you feel like you should be doing something?

Husband:  Because I work hard all week–weekends are for relaxing.

Me:  So you feel no guilt for spending your Sunday watching TV and taking naps? (notice the plural of naps)

Husband:  No–why should I?

This could have go on for a while, but I got the idea.  He was completely fine with just chilling, so why wasn’t I?  I decided I needed to GET OK with doing nothing.  So I did what I always do when confronted by a conundrum–research.

First, self reflection.  I am a doer by nature.  I like to plan, execute, DO.  I don’t like feeling rushed or having things sprung on me at the last minute.  So weekends have typically been my planning time for the week so I can execute with as little stress as possible.  With a full time job and 3 nights of school, my weekday time is precious, so having things run smooth is critical to keeping me in a thriving state.

However, there needs to be balance, right?  I have championed life-work balance for a long time, and yet when it came to my definition of life, it still seemed to be work.  I needed to adjust my thinking.  I decided step two in my quest for doing nothing would be to make sure I had time on the weekends to relax.  If that meant not taking a class, or turning down an invitation, I would do it.  You see the planner in me right now, don’t you?

Step three was to give myself the luxury of naps on weekends.  I tell myself that naps interfere with my sleep at night, but sometimes, dammit, I’m tired.  Would it be so bad to throw on a blanket and get a little extra shut eye?  I decided that my body and brain needed the rest, so it is now penciled in.  Guilt free.  Balance.

What else could help me do nothing?  Internet research time…

I found an article entitled, 10 Ways to Enjoy Doing Nothing, that had some good ideas.  I have listed a few below (I think you will understand why these particular ones resonated with me):

1. Banish the guilt.
We are all told that we should be terribly busy, so we can’t laze around without that nagging feeling that we need to be getting stuff done. I rejected my guilt upon learning that Europeans in the Middle Ages felt no shame for lolling about. Their favorite philosopher, Aristotle, had praised the contemplative life, and the monks spent a lot of time just praying and chanting. Guilt for doing nothing is artificially imposed on us by a Calvinistic and Puritanical culture that wants us to work hard. When you understand that it hasn’t always been this way, it becomes easier to shake it off…

4. Go bumbling.
Bumbling is a nice word that means “wandering around without purpose.” It was indulged in by the poets of 19th-century Paris. They called themselves flâneurs and were said to have taken tortoises around on leads, which gives you an idea of the tempo of their rambles. Children are good bumblers. Try making a deliberate effort to slow down your walking pace. You’ll find yourself coming alive, and you’ll enjoy simply soaking in the day…

6. Bring back Sundays.
Many religions still observe a Sabbath, whether it’s Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. And for a long time secular society embraced Sundays as a day of rest, too. But now Sundays are as busy and stress-filled as any other day. Having a day of rest was a very practical idea: We were excused from all labor and devoted ourselves to pleasure and family. Take that ancient wisdom to heart and declare at least one day of the week as a do-nothing day. Don’t clean the house or do the laundry; don’t get in the car. Stay home and eat chocolate and drink wine. Be kind to yourself.

9. Take a nap.
To indulge in a siesta after lunch is the most wonderful luxury: It softens tempers and guards against grumpiness. Yet our culture has decided that naps are for wimps. A nap is acceptable only if it is called a “power nap”―a short doze that is supposed to return you to the office with more energy to kick some ass. But you should nap, not for the profit of a corporation but for your own health. Research has shown that a daily snooze can reduce the risk of heart attack. And just knowing you’re going to sleep after lunch seems to make the morning less stressful. If curling up in your office isn’t an option, go somewhere quiet, like a church or a park bench, and close your eyes for even just five minutes.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  I’m going to give it a try this weekend, and I hope you will too.  When we are on the go all the time, we miss out on the simple luxury of doing nothing.  And doing nothing has benefits to our bodies, minds and souls, contributing to our wellbeing and bringing about a state of wholeness.  When we become aware of the benefits to doing nothing, it can help ease the guilt and allow ourselves to just BE.  Need a little mantra to help you remember to do nothing?  BEnefits.

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