How to Feel Better by Doing Nothing

>> Thursday

To be in a good mood more often, cultivating calmness really helps. Read more about that here. And one way to cultivate more calmness is to spend some time doing nothing. At least that's what it looks like from the outside — it looks like you're just sitting there, or just taking a walk but not really walking anywhere in particular and not walking fast enough to make it exercise. There are several things you can do while doing "nothing" however:

  1. Free thought (letting the mind think whatever it wants to think)
  2. Take deep breaths
  3. Think about a specific thing
  4. Meditate
  5. Relax tense muscles
  6. Pray
These are all helpful activities in the cultivation of serenity, although they do not look like "activities" to an outside observer.

Doing nothing at all, without trying to do any of the activities above, results in free thought — your mind will simply wander where it will. We need more of that. Almost everyone is experiencing a chronic shortage of nothing.

Do you want to know how to feel better? Spend some time doing nothing. Your mind will wander and you'll think things through, and this will raise your mood.

You and I have lots of things we have put off thinking about because we've been too busy working and talking and learning and watching and listening and reading. So these un-thought-about things accumulate and create a kind of tension. When you stop doing anything, your mind automatically starts thinking about those things, sorting them out, coming up with solutions, and the tension drains away.

If your mind does not do this — if when you do nothing, your mind obsesses about worries you can do nothing about — read this.

But the point is that almost everyone needs to spend more of their time doing nothing. Not watching TV or playing video games: Those are doing something. Doing nothing looks like you're just sitting there. Or just walking (not listening to anything, not talking to anyone).

One of the things you had as a child (that you don't have now) was occasional periods of time when you did nothing at all. If you were to spend more time now doing nothing, you would regain some of your childhood serenity.

On your next day off, deliberately set aside a three-hour period to do nothing. Or eight hours. Or the whole day. No email, no chores, no planning, no reading, no watching television, no conversation, no nothing. Just sit still or go for a walk, or both, ideally in a place with few or no distractions.

Try it and notice you feel calmer and happier afterward, sometimes for many days. Do this every few weeks, and the general tone of your life will rise. This is a simple and inexpensive way to improve your mood: Feel better by taking the time to do nothing.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.

2 comments:

davekat54 9:31 AM  

All too often we find ourselves overwhelmed by our own lifestyles failing to "refresh" our minds & bodies & ultimately making ourselves sick. Your article has lots of great info & it works! This helps us to take better care of ourselves,and consequently, other folks we deal with. Thanks for a great blog.
Dave

Fred Miller 5:52 AM  

Our more-observant Jewish friends sometimes share with us the advantages of observing the Sabbath regularly. Not only do they get time to do these things, but their friends and business associates also know enough to leave them alone from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.

My dad milked cows, so we never kept a "sabbath" on Sunday, but I remember visiting my city cousins who ate light, almost fasted, on Sundays after mass. This gave their mom the advantage of a kind of "sabbath", too. And the entire family had that personal focus time where you let things go.

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