New Year, New intention – ‘Doing Nothing’.
As we have turned over yet another chapter in our lives and welcome 2022, we all have made plans for the New Year. Year on year, we set New Year’s resolutions. Some may wish to improve their wellbeing perhaps, some may wish to work on their fitness level, some may wish to take up a new hobby, some may wish to improve their performance, or some may even wish to be more creative! We all put in effort to ensure we are looking after our mind and body wellness. In order to achieve this, we are constantly scrolling internet looking for information related to healthy living, diet plans and new recipes. Or to keep ourselves amused, we are constantly checking for new activities, entertainment or checking new holiday destinations and when nothing else is available to fill our time, there is social media! Instagram, Facebook, Twitter keeping us so occupied day in and day out that little do we realise our brains are constantly on the go. Every waking minute is spent ensuring we are kept busy all the time – constantly working, planning, making decisions or making choices. Our brain needs a break too!
Approximately 12 to 60 thousand thoughts cross our mind daily and 80% of these are felt to be negative and 95% are repetitive! These repetitive and negative thoughts are the ones which limit our ability to fully achieve our potential. So apart from indulging in practicing mindfulness, visiting a gym, spending some time in nature or going for a walk, what else can you do improve your cognitive functioning ?
‘Do Nothing!’ Yup, you heard it right!
Intrigued? Baffled? Confused? Anyone would experience such mixed reactions on hearing ‘Do Nothing’ can do anyone any good. Let alone be beneficial in any way for the mind! We are so hardwired to be constantly ‘busy’ in today’s fast paced world that ‘doing nothing’ is made to believe to be a waste of time. If you do nothing then a general perception would be you are ‘uncool’ or ‘you have no life’! And here I am asking you to do nothing! As if it is some unachievable task!
When was the last time you did nothing? Ummm… when was it? Oh Forget it, you may not even remember. ‘Doing nothing’ is emerging as an effective tool for better productivity and creativity! With technology on our fingertips, it is very easy to stay switched on 24/7! There is no place for ‘not doing anything’ or ‘boredom!’ Additionally, long working hours, the merging boundaries between home and work, with more and more work creeping into our homes, partly due to the increased demands and partly due the change in work culture in the current global pandemic. There is no place for ‘not doing anything’ or boredom.
An endless supply of entertainment delivered straight in to our living room is constantly keeping us amused and entertained, but also deprived of sleep! We have started to take pride in our ‘super busy lives’ and are made to believe that ‘busyness’ should be a ‘default setting’ or that it is some fancy ‘status indicator’. Our brains are getting rewired to this ‘busyness’ of life. And before you know it, focusing becomes somewhat challenging along with a shorter attention span and down goes the productivity and performance.
Ever noticed while reading a book, you keep lingering on the same line, reading it over and over, struggling to move past the first five lines of the book? At home or at work, there are times during a conversation you would be staring blankly at people, or checking your phone every now and then. Not registering a word they say, until someone says ‘you are not listening, are you?
You are not able to engage meaningfully in a conversation or gaining fulfilment from many of the life’s experiences! Simply because your mind is at more than one place! That means it is just not present where it needs to be. The body is here but the mind is elsewhere! Perhaps it is going over and over the day’s happenings. Perhaps it is still thinking of what happened yesterday or what you did last weekend. Or it is still wrapped up in a conversation you had earlier. Or perhaps it is planning the next day ahead or even a next holiday. Or perhaps you are checking your phone on countless accounts. Or perhaps it is thinking of something completely unrelated, that happened years ago! Whatever the case maybe- the constant switched ‘on’ mode of the mind is causing our brains to function in a very distracted manner.
As a result, our experiences are failing us; we are feeling less connected with the world around us, with people in our lives, our relations and even our surroundings! We are not gaining the satisfaction we desire, leaving us with a sense of under fulfilled life! Impatience is on the rise! Barely have we finished what’s at hand, the mind has already jumped to the next activity! There is certain haste in our behaviour. You may notice you get a bit impatient, edgy, snappy or even shouty over trivial matters. Leaving you none the wiser as to why this is all happening? Counterintuitively, the constant busyness of the mind is proving unhelpful in achieving the control and solace we are so longing for!
Being busy may not sound so fashionable then or such a status indicator, which we have come to believe it to be, once we acknowledge the detrimental effects it is causing on our mind’s functioning. Burnout, anxiety and stress-related disorders are on the rise. Know when to slow down. Know when the brain needs rest. Give your brain some downtime. Give it a chance to restore and replenish. Nurture the most important organ you carry above your shoulders! It is the powerhouse of decision making! It is the endless source of intelligence and imagination – is it any wonder the scientists brains have mapped the whole observable universe. The brain provides you with the limitless supply of insightful thoughts. There is utmost joy when we achieve a state of ‘oneness’! A sense of accomplishment prevails on attaining a flow state and by giving 100% attention to the task at hand.
Be gentle on your mind. Take some time out every day to improve mental health. Treat yourself with some loving kindness. 7-10 minutes of meditation has proven extremely beneficial for the mind. Meditation simply defined means a conscious attempt to bring our mind to a single point, on purpose. This also means, intentionally you can bring your mind to here and now or to the task at hand! Breathing is a very good tool to anchor ourselves in the moment. It is an excellent medium to tame the wandering mind. By learning to focus on our breathing we can train ourselves to stop getting consumed by unwanted negative thoughts. Every time you notice your mind has wandered away or caught up in a chain of thoughts, gently bring it back to your breathing. You may have to do this over and over to bring yourself back to the moment.
Or an easier option would be ‘doing nothing’! Unlike the longer periods of not doing much, which were once perceived as ‘lazy or wasteful’, counterintuitively, intentional small pauses are in-fact proving beneficial. These small periods of stillness are intentional and carried with a conscious awareness. Moments of sitting still are akin to applying brakes to a busy daily grind and are proven more beneficial, fuelling productivity – Literally making us more creative and better at problem solving. Idleness breeds creativity. It acts as the mind’s stimulation. So go on, allow yourself some free time during your ‘busy schedule’, see if you can get a little bored, absolutely ‘doing nothing’! Schedule ‘nothing’ on your agenda in order to reap the benefits of being more productive, you will get better at coming up with more creative ideas.
Being in the moment more, means you can engage better with daily experiences leading to an enhanced fuller life! Now that you have come to the end of this narrative, I am grateful to you for being with me and taking this valuable time out of your ever so ‘busy’ schedule. Before you move on to your next task, kindly permit yourself to sit still for just five minutes without doing anything and see how your mind comes up with excuse after excuse and tells you what a waste of time it is. Instantaneously, it will generate a list of all the tasks you need to do, remind you of the upcoming events, jumping from one thought to another and before you know it, you are living in your head completely immersed in thoughts, sabotaging any intention of ‘doing nothing!’