Finding Meaning In Doing Nothing (365 Days of Spirited Living — DAY 316)
“Some folks can look so busy doing nothing that they seem indispensable.”
— Kim Hubbard
How many times have you told yourself that you are too busy? How often do you replace those busy moments with random activities? How many times do you actually do nothing at all?
I write in the affirmative on the first two questions and am not too sure why I asked the third one. Many people are just like this. We are busier than we’ve ever been. When we try to take a break from being busy, we fill that time with random activities like mindless TV watching, movie binging or internet surfing. We do this because we think that to do nothing is a sign of laziness and we never want to be in that category.
I know what it is like to feel tired and want a break from real life for a while. And I know what it is like to tune out everything and everybody and how that somehow ends up making us feel more overwhelmed and tired than we felt before you decided to completely zone out.
In the back of our heads, we know that it is okay to do nothing at all at times and that some downtime adds balance to our lives, but we really don’t believe it because we don’t actually practice it. We want others to think we are busy because being busy adds a dimension of self-importance and self-worth to our lives and so we distract ourselves by doing mindless, random things.
I personally don’t like to just do nothing. I work while I eat, study while I exercise, and do other things while I’m on the way to run some errand. But I’ve learned that this often leads to burnout and leaves me unable to focus on important tasks for any length of time. And when I can’t focus because I’m too tired, my workload will increase while my productivity level decreases.
There is a big difference between being genuinely busy, being busy doing random things, and then just doing nothing at all.
It wasn’t until I was in a scary place with an unknown medical condition that I was forced to just doing nothing at all. I didn’t have any work to throw myself into, didn’t have any studies and books to hid behind, didn’t have any writing assignments, didn’t have any phones or music or games to distract myself. It was just me alone with my thoughts and emotions.
Of course, I was eager to do something because that’s my nature, it’s in my head that way. And some days while I felt sadness and other days worry, I had nothing with which to divert my attention. All I could do was deal with my emotions, work through them, and release them. Doing nothing helped me to rest and recharge.
But some people don’t like to just do nothing at all because they are afraid to be alone with their thoughts and emotions. When it is just you and your thoughts, you are forced to work through them at that time because you have nothing else with which to distract you or occupy your time. When you stop distracting yourself, you also get to enjoy intensely wonderful feelings such as joy and elation.
Give yourself permission to stop competing with everyone else on the busyness scale and enjoy a cup of coffee instead of using it as a boost to get through the day. Grab a glass of wine for enjoyment instead of guzzling it down to wash away all your troubles at the end of the day. Talk with a friend about how grateful you are for life instead of all the things you have to do on your agenda.
All the things we keep busy with are usually distractions that prevent us from connecting with ourselves, with our purpose, with other people, and even with God in a deeper level. So take some time to enjoy doing nothing. Spend a few moments just being instead of trying to do and get and go.
Sitting on a park bench, laying in bed, curled up on the couch — whatever you choose to do nothing with or where — just make sure that you will not be distracted to do other things so that you can really benefit from this time. You may feel uncomfortable at first but over time, you will begin to feel better about life. You will feel more balanced and like you are able to handle things as they come without the stress and frustration.
Doing nothing bears some meaning in that it allows us to be renewed and refreshed so that we can do something. Not just anything, but something that matters and is worth our time, energy, and struggle.
“It takes a long time to learn how to do nothing.”
— Marty Rubin