Milwaukee Edition

Doing Nothing

Why Timeouts Matter

Anatoli Styf/Shutterstock.com

In a harried world where our work is never done, it’s tough to take timeouts to do nothing. Yet, when we pump the brakes on Americans’ obsessive drive, we discover fresh productivity, creativity and contentment.

“We’re socialized to pride ourselves on accomplishment and achievement, yet when you step back, you realize doing nothing produces a valuable currency, especially in enhanced mental health,” says Colleen Long, a Boston psychologist and author of Happiness in B.A.L.A.N.C.E: What We Know Now About Happiness.

Italians call it la dolce far niente, or the sweetness of doing nothing, while the Dutch word niksen translates as “doing something without a purpose”. Here are a few tips to reclaim the art of be-ing over do-ing.

Create a “do nothing” ritual. Set aside a special time and make it known. It can start the morning or wind down an evening. It may be meditating a few minutes or enjoying a bit of aromatherapy, wherever the heart leads.

Relax into the moment. Acknowledge guilty feelings when they arise, but don’t heed them. It takes time to undo mental programming and learn to quiet the voice urging, “Don’t just stand there, do something!”

Mindfully do nothing. It’s not about vegging out with passive activities like watching TV or checking email. It’s a time to come alive to our senses and surroundings, whether listening to music or people-watching, free of distractions from phone calls or anxious thoughts.

Doing something is okay. The aim is to let go of the compulsion to check off every item on our to-do list—but that doesn’t mean blankly staring off into space. These are purposeful moments without a specific purpose. Doodle in a sketchbook, wander around the neighborhood or lie in the grass and look at clouds. Spontaneously go with the flow.

There’s no one way or right way to do nothing. “Just by carving out space, you’ll get a benefit even if it doesn’t feel like you’re doing it right or perfectly,” advises Long. It looks different for different people. “Before I had kids, my ‘nothing time’ might be just being out in nature or simply doing one thing mindfully at a time, like washing dishes. Now I incorporate the principle into family time. One day a week, I shut off the phone, get on the floor with my kids and just let life get messy.”


Connect with April Thompson, in Washington, D.C., at AprilWrites.com.


This article appears in the June 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Letter from Publisher

Adopting some of the ways of our grandparents and great-grandparents, such as reusing items and conserving resources, can contribute toward habits that are better not only for the planet, but also for our health.

Wellness Body, Mind & Spirit Expo Brings all Modalities Under One Roof

The North Shore Wellness Body, Mind & Spirit Expo unites people from all over the region, making new connections with alternative health practitioners easy, stress-free and fun.

Why You Aren’t Who You Think You Are

Each of us perceives reality through the filter of a personal self, an “I” that is unique in the world, thanks to the unique experiences we’ve had since birth.

Vendor Opportunities Available for VegOut Health Fest

Radio Station FM 102.1 will present the second annual VegOut Health Fest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 11, at the Miller High Life Theater Rotunda, in downtown Milwaukee.

Deepak Chopra to Appear at the Pabst Theater

Join New York Times bestselling author Deepak Chopra as he addresses topics like how to control one’s own reality and manifest dreams at the highest level, all while providing practical ways to experience transformation and healing.

Celebrate Earth Day with Rock the Green and Milwaukee Riverkeeper

From 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 27, Milwaukee Riverkeeper will proudly host their 24th annual Spring River Cleanup with nearly 4,000 volunteers joining together across the Milwaukee River Basin to get outdoors, pick up trash and help to achieve swimmable, fishable rivers.

Local Author Captures Wisconsin’s Artisan Cheesemaking Legacy

Kristine Hansen traveled extensively throughout the state interviewing cheesemakers and learning about how they continue traditions going back several generations.

One Day Is Not Enough—Celebrate Milwaukee Earth Month

Throughout the month of April, the Urban Ecology Center will promote sustainability initiatives through Milwaukee Earth Month.

National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin Receives Grant

National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, a nonprofit serving blind and low-vision people across the state, has received a grant from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation to create opportunities for individuals to participate in the National Fitness Challenge.

Bringing Up Kitty

Adorable as new kittens are, they need the right conditions, from bedding to food to scratching surfaces—and a proper introduction to their new home—to thrive.

Loving Nature

In a time in which digital devices often rule, kids will happily head outdoors for adventures involving gardens, bugs and birds that spark their interest and creativity.

Potluck for the 21st Century

Using phone apps as well as workplace and neighborhood contacts, friends and strangers are coming together to share healthy, home-cooked meals.

Add your comment: