Call it idleness, resting, or just being lazy, but I bet you didn’t know that doing nothing is one of the most important things you can do in your day?
Everyone’s too busy. In today’s world, if you’re not “busy” you must be unpopular, or at the least, unimportant. How dare you show any vacant slots on your calendar for coworkers to see; or offer more than a smidgen of a window of time that you are available to meet up with a friend. Nobody in our overly productive culture today would dare admit to purposely making space in their day to do nothing.
But that’s exactly what neuroscientists, medical experts and mental health professionals want us to do ASAP.
Science says we need to do nothing
Andrew Smart, neuroscientist and author of Autopilot: The Art and Science of Doing Nothing explains that our current culture of effectiveness is not only ineffective, it can be harmful to your well-being. He makes a compelling case – backed by science – that filling life with activity at work and at home actually hurts your brain. In fact, Smart says there is wisdom that can’t be accessed by conscious control. To get at it, paradoxically, you have to stop trying so hard.
"Our brain, much like an airplane, has an autopilot, which we enter when resting and relinquishing manual control. The autopilot knows where you really want to go, and what you really want to do. But the only way to find out what your autopilot knows is to stop flying the plane, and let your autopilot guide you."
In Chronic Busyness is Bad For Your Brain Inc.com cites these benefits:
1. replenishment of the brain’s stores of attention and motivation
2. renewed productivity and creativity
3. higher levels of overall performance
How to do nothing
So how do you tap into the power of doing nothing? Begin by being still. Just sitting physically still will take more effort than you might imagine. Especially for those of us who are constantly tapping our feet or pen, typing away on a laptop, or texting and scrolling on our phones.
Then, try quieting your mind by becoming an observer to your thoughts without clinging to any or fixating on one that needs to be analyzed or solved. You might be surprised at what new ideas and connections form in the calm you create; or what old desires surface that want to be heard.
The practice of being still, in a state of active, open attention on the present and observing one’s thoughts from a distance is called Mindfulness. It’s gaining awareness and popularity as a technique for stress reduction, increased self-awareness, and enhanced emotional intelligence-- all things we can agree are seriously important to being happier and more fulfilled in our daily lives.
Start Fostering Mindfulness
Check out our Fostering Mindfulness Through Guided Meditation series with Davidji, world renowned author, speaker and lead educator at The Chopra Center, and let Grokker help you become a happier you. You can also share your experiences with practicing mindfulness in the work life balance forum or see how other’s are beginning their journey.
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