How much Nothing do you Do?
Life is busy-busy and when there’s so much to do, genuine downtime or Doing Nothing falls pretty low down priority lists. And then when you might have the opportunity to do absolutely nada, do you take it? Or do you fidget a bit, think of things you could/should be doing and promptly get busy again? We are surrounded by a culture which celebrates high achievers and go-getters, people who ‘do’ things, people who cram life into every waking moment. And when the high achievers are asked how they relax or how they spend their downtime, they are generally still ‘doing’. Exercise, cooking, travelling, spending time with friends, looking fabulous. Even if we don’t aspire to the life of a celebrity or a successful business owner, theres still so many things we ‘should’ be doing, be it from necessity or a desire to feel we are living life.
This is not to underestimate the benefits of the activities mentioned above. But there is another one which is rarely mentioned, let alone celebrated. And this is the art of Doing Nothing.
I was reminded of the art of Doing Nothing in reading an article about Thomas Edison, inventor of the Phonograph and electric lightbulb. He found his most creative ideas came at the precise point between wakefulness and sleep. He would sit in an armchair with two steel balls in his hands, resting on arm rests. At the point he moved from dozing to sleep, the balls would drop to the floor and wake him. It was at this point that he’d have an idea for research or a creative breakthrough. Similar techniques are known to have been used by writers, philosophers, scientists and artists through history. Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Beethoven to name a few.
Doing Nothing allows your mind to completely unwind. With this, your mind is capable of increased flexibility and can make sense of things that it was too overwhelmed to deal with earlier.
But how to Do Nothing when life is so, well, busy. I’ve not personally tried the Thomas Edison trick and I presume it takes some training but there are easy ways to practice Doing Nothing. Have a bath. Sit in the park. If you travel on public transport, just sit & be. Lie on your bed. Don’t look at your phone or any other screen. So just for 10 mins today, Do Nothing.