The Art and Necessity of Doing Nothing

By Anna Martinson 

The busy-ness of the holidays is over. It’s time to settle into a winter routine and plan for what you’d like to accomplish this season. Whatever your to-do list is for the coming year, here is another task to add to your list: do nothing.

Doing nothing will promote a quieting of the body and mind, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, promote better digestion, and improve over-all mood. Doing nothing gives the body a chance to replenish glucose and oxygen levels. Doing nothing can help you to feel more rested, clear-headed, and calm. All of this is key to healing the body, mind, and spirit. Doing nothing calms the soul and helps to create peace, balancing us in an otherwise, overly busy, over-stimulated world.

Think of a time when you have hit a dead-end while working on a project or felt stumped while seeking a solution to a problem. Do you remember how leaving the task and coming back to it after a mental break produced new and fresh ideas, or even a solution to your problem? Like-wise, intentional quiet time improves concentration, boosts problem-solving capability, and enhances creativity.

Humans are the only creatures in nature that resist the pattern of ebb and flow. What if instead of Facebook, texting, emailing, TV viewing, and gaming you did nothing? What if, instead of saving up vacation time to finally rest and enjoy life, you spread those moments throughout each day of the year? What if you penciled yourself into your busy calendar by putting yourself first with a plan to do nothing? What if…

Doing nothing can be challenging at first! It can be difficult to get out of your head and into your body. Our minds will conjure up numerous reasons why doing nothing:

• I don’t have enough time!
• I have too much to do!
• Sitting still is just being lazy.

Trust your body. The messages of your body will guide you if you listen. Instead of pushing through exhaustion, for example, check in with your body to know what it needs. Also, self pressure to DO and take care of others before yourself can lead to chronic pain. Eventually your body says STOP! There is a difference between truly quieting the mind by doing nothing and being involved in a leisure-time activity (watching TV, taking a trip, dinner out with friends). Leisure activities engage your brain; that is, your brain is still busy. Sitting in front of the TV or computer for an hour feels very different than an hour sitting in the park.

The following are some simple strategies to help you learn how to do nothing:

• Turn off or separate yourself form all electronic devices. Yes, ALL of them! Disconnect to replenish your soul.
• Ground. Bring your attention inside your body. Notice any body sensations. Feel the chair supporting you with your feet flat on the floor.
• Breathe. Gently pay attention to your breathing, just noticing. There is nothing you have to do. Your body breathes itself. Paying attention to your breathing naturally slows your heart rate and brings you into the present moment.
• Be Still. Stare out the window or sit in nature. You might want to pay attention to something beautiful in your space or meditate, or listen to the sounds around you, or shut your eyes and just BE.
• Let your body relax and your feelings unfold. Just a few minutes of doing nothing is enough. What matters is that you’re still.

Give yourself permission to care for yourself. Take in the sweetness of doing nothing. You’ll be glad you did!

Happy New Year! Anna Martinson, B.S., LMT, is a Certified Life Coach, Mind-Body Coach, (715-834-3959) and Licensed Massage Therapist (715-456-2544).

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