“La Dolce Far Niente” – that’s Italian for the sweet art of doing nothing. Seems like the Italians had more to offer the world than just pizza and wines!
The art of doing nothing is mentioned in several cultures across the world. For instance, in Indian language, it’s called the ‘Shunya’ which translates into ‘zero’ but in essence, it is the concept of nothingness.
According to the people who know more about life, it is imperative to spend some time with ourselves doing absolutely nothing; having periods of solitude, if you may.
I know what’s going on your mind right now: “When was the last time I had a moment of solitude?”
If it’s not on your mind, it should be.
The Fear of Missing Out (#FOMO)
If you’re a millennial, there’s a very small chance that you haven’t heard about this popular hashtag on social media.
For the older generation: Yes, it’s a thing!
In a book called How to Do Nothing: resisting the Attention Economy, the author has coined another hashtag which is #NOMO; the necessity of missing out.
It’s a beautiful concept that asks us to move from FOMO to NOMO.
The whole point of FOMO is that people want to do everything. Ever since the paradigm shift from global and ‘glocal’, no one wants to miss out on anything new.
Whether it’s a video game, a new book, a highly anticipated movie, a newly discovered tourist destination, a new online course, or a new trend, we need to just do it.
It’s good to try out new things, but at what cost?
Here’s where NOMO comes in. Sometimes, you just have to let things go. You can’t do it all. More importantly, you don’t have to do it all.
Take some time out for yourself, and just do nothing.
Why Should You Do Nothing When There’s So Much to Do?
It seems like an impossible task when, in addition to work, you HAVE to check out the new Insta post or a controversial Tweet or a trending Meme!
Below are the reasons why you should take some time out to do nothing:
1. Creation emerges out of nothingness
It does. An occupied mind can never be a creative mind.
Today’s business world does not value the talent of how quickly you can type or take orders; we have Artificial Intelligence for that now.
What makes you valuable is your creativity and critical thinking.
To let the creativity flow, you need to have your mind free. There’s a reason why a book isn’t written in a week and a music album takes weeks to compose.
Practice solitude and you will be surprised by the level of creativity your mind is capable of.
2. Less Screen Time – Better Life!
Okay, this might the most difficult thing to do for most of us, including myself!
But, hear me out.
There’s so much around you to look at; nature, people, even the sky! It would be a shame to ignore all that and stare at screens all day long.
Here’s how you can do it:
- Start your screen downtime by not using your cellphone for 15 minutes per day.
- Resist the urge to look at the phone for any notifications (except for urgent calls)
- To completely take your mind off it, indulge yourself in some physical activity like going for a walk. However, as you get good at it, start doing nothing while staying away from the phone.
- To master this art and letting go of your addiction, go on a camping trip where there is no network and you have to live without using your phone for a few days. That will be a game-changer.
3. It adds more meaning to life
As filmy as it sounds, it’s the truth.
Work-life balance is exigent. But, having some time off is equally important.
Isolate yourself from all the worldly affairs for a few minutes per day and you will get to know more about yourself.
Tell me, when was the last time you thought about others? Possibility of extra-terrestrial life? Your life in 10 years? I bet its been ages since you gave a thought to any of this.
Spending time with yourself or nature, doing nothing, will help you get clarity on this amazing concept of life.
First Steps Towards the Art of Doing Nothing
Before we get into that, have you noticed how people eat these days? I’ll tell you how; with their phones out in front of them or their hands. Or snap chatting the food in front of them.
I can say this because I am one of those people. Guilty.
What’s worse than not to savor the flavors of cuisines?
By now you might be convinced to start doing nothing. Here’s how you can do it:
You won’t be able to do it in a week. It will take time. And dedication.
Start with as little as 5 minutes per day. It may not seem much but believe me, it’s easier said than done.
Go a whole week by doing nothing for 5 minutes per day. Then, as you feel a bit comfortable, make it 10 minutes a day.
Pro tip: if 10 minutes seem a lot (they usually do), it is better to take 5 minutes breaks a couple of times per day.
Know when to say yes, and when to say No
No, it’s not a typo. The reason I wrote no in caps is that it’s actually pretty difficult for the majority of us to utter this word. We’ll get to that later.
Let’s see when you should say yes:
- When you are doing something out of interest, not merely as an obligation.
- When you have the time to do it. It could be a favor to a friend or family. But if you have to go out of the way and squeeze it into your schedule, it is not worth it.
- If you can do it. By that I mean if you have the necessary resources to do something. Scoring points at the cost of personal time is not cool.
Here’s when you should say No:
- You already have too much on your plate. It doesn’t matter who asks you to do something, just say no. It’s not rude; it’s sensible.
- You simply don’t want to do it. There could be several reasons behind it and it is alright to have some.
- If someone makes it a habit of putting things on you. Beware of those ‘just a little favor’ requests at the workplace and outside too. As soon as someone asks for it more than a couple of times, its time to say no.
What to do in the meantime?
A valid question. As you start practicing solitude, you will require some additional help. Try these things like starting your journey towards a better life:
For starters, no I don’t mean to meditate. That would be doing something; and we are here to do nothing.
Just try and monitor the natural process of breathing by a human body.
Start slow, take deep breaths. As you do nothing, just let the body do what it does naturally. Let your body relax and feel the stress escaping.
It might sound a bit poetic but what’s wrong in it?
Try Relaxing for a bit
Find a spot. Make it your own.
It might be your bed, or the plush sofa/couch in the lounge, or a balcony with a view, whatever makes you feel at ease.
Once you’re in that spot, stop doing anything. Just let your body relax.
Start by relaxing your muscles. Start with your feet and move your way up. By the time you are at your head, close your eyes, and rest your mind.
For a few minutes, you are not a son, or a husband, or an employee. You are just a guy on a break.
If you don’t fancy a spot at the workplace and home, mother nature is always there to help you.
It’s the greatest gift of life. The moment you stop looking at your to-do list and start looking around, you will find scenes to die for.
Start by just looking straight up. The sky is a canvas with a new painting on it every day.
Couple it with an excellent spot to just sit back and relax while you gaze at the beauty of everything. Make sure the place is away from city life. Parks are good. Places with water are the best.
Do this for 15 to 20 minutes daily and you will never go back to being someone who doesn’t appreciate nature.
Start doing nothing!
If nothing else, the current pandemic has taught the world one thing; it needs a break.
I bet millions of us haven’t tasted the sweetness of just doing anything for years!
The fast-paced, competitive global environment has had everyone working day-in, day-out. That is not cool.
In the words of Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones, “I want you to start doing it now; not tomorrow, not today, now!”
The art of doing nothing will take some time to master. You better hang in there and master this beautiful art. You will cherish every moment of it.