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

School of Sound and Healing Names New Co-Education Director

Music therapist and sound teacher Kathryn Rambo was named co-education director for the School of Sound and Healing, at Angel Light.

New Classes Begin in October at Sacred Sound Yoga

Starting the week of October 15, Sacred Sound Yoga will offer several classes that blend the healing power of yoga with sound.

Out of the Darkness Community Walk for Suicide Prevention

The Wisconsin chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will hold the annual Milwaukee Out of the Darkness community walk on Sunday, October 14, at Humboldt Park in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood.

Explore Healthy Horizons at the Wellness Body, Mind, & Spirit Expo

Those seeking the latest approaches to natural wellness can explore 40 eclectic exhibits, demonstrations and presentations in holistic and alternative health at the Wellness Body, Mind & Spirit Expo.

Book Launch and Psychic Fair Celebrates Life and Love

Author Susan Lukas will release her new book, Abiding Flame, at a book launch and psychic fair from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Sunday, October 7, at New Berlin Ale House.

Fall Reiki Specials Can Help Facilitate Positive Change

During October and November, Cindy Carlson Reiki and Energy Healing is offering a special $45 one-hour reiki session.

Shorewood Health & Wellness Open Doors Event

Health & Wellness Open Doors takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 13, in the Shorewood Business District along Oakland Avenue and Capitol Drive.

Building Personalized 
Connections After Breast 
Cancer Diagnosis

Since 1999, Milwaukee-based After Breast Cancer Diagnosis has offered comfort and encouragement through a nationwide network of mentors.

Ananda Healing Collective to Celebrate New Name, Mission

Ananda Acupuncture & Healing Center is rebranding as Ananda Healing Collective and will focus on divine feminine healing and collaborative energy within their clinic.

Letter from Publisher

“Game Changers,” one of Natural Awakenings’ themes for October, focuses on the youth of our nation taking the reins to make a difference in social and environmental areas.

Healing Our Kids

An estimated quarter to half of American children have a diagnosed chronic condition such as autism or allergies, but an integrative approach to healing can have profound effects.

Farewell to a Beloved Pet

Innovative options now exist that honor a pet’s remains in an earth-friendly, biodegradable fashion using alkaline water, seeded pods or a manmade ocean reef.

Add your comment: