This may seem a bizarre topic for a blog post. But it’s one that I sorely need to address. I’m not very good at doing nothing. Or, I am but the emotional burden that comes with it is huge. I’d happily read, browse online or watch TV for hours. But I can’t seem to balance this with a consistent drive to be productive. If I’m not doing something. Ticking a task off the to-do list, achieving something, learning, progressing. Then what am I doing? And whilst this motivation can be incredibly helpful at times. The path to burnout or exhaustion is paved with constant busyness and not enough down time. So, how can I find value in activities which don’t necessarily achieve or teach me something. But have other benefits for my mental health?
For How to Accept & Manage Life as a To-Do List read here.
Upon much reflection, my inability or guilt-ridden pursuit of doing nothing is simple. The aforementioned activities don’t outwardly seem beneficially. And thus my mind considers them a waste of time. After all, I could be filling my time with my productive and useful tasks. And yet, this is akin to adding two plus two and getting five. Whilst watching TV, curling up on the sofa with a good book, browsing social media or playing a mindless game don’t appear to have value. They, of course, do. The trick is to find the balance. If they keep me from other things then it’s gone to far. But, in moderation, they actually enable me to do what I need to. They are what keep me ticking items off my to-do list. Giving me the energy to keep all the plates spinning. Integral to my mental health. If anything, they are the most valuable use of my time.
Learning to Prioritise
With this in mind, doing nothing has incredible value. And yet, unless I re-shuffle my priorities it will continue to be the final item on my to-do list. In short, whilst downtime is good for us. Unless we truly appreciate the importance of our mental health. And learn to prioritise our self-care. Then whilst doing nothing may have value; it’s not something we will make happen. Not only do I need to acknowledge the hidden value of these activities. But reassert the importance of my wellbeing.
I experienced the importance of this lesson today. I had taken a day off work and by midday had accomplished a workout and nothing else. Or at least that was how it felt when I noticed the time on the clock. With reflection, I realised that the time I had spent in bed this morning wasn’t wasted time. Although my gut reaction was to berate myself for it. The point of my day off was to take it a bit slower. And that was precisely what I had done. Reading in bed for an hour or two followed by my usual morning routine accomplished at a slower (and more relaxing pace). All in all a good morning’s work. But only when I recognised the value of giving myself some time.
For How to Find a Slower Pace in Life read here.
Remember How it Feels
I know that despite acknowledging the value of down time and my pledge to be my own priority. There will continue to be times when I feel guilty for taking things slow. When I will chastise myself for time wasted. In fact, I’m doing it right now. I could have written this post hours ago but I didn’t. Opting for some extra time reading. So, like many things it’s likely to be a one step forward two steps back kind of process. But when I’m at the crossroads, choosing between something and nothing. Remembering not only the importance of doing nothing for my health. But also the feel of it.
When I’ve had time for myself, I’m calmer, more productive, less tense both physically and mentally. I need to remember that feeling when I have a choice to make. Of course, self-care across the board will boost my mental health. And many forms of self-care are productive or creative. But in my experience, I need a mix. Sometimes it’s exercise, creativity and learning. But other times, it’s feet up and a good book or tv show.
Empower Yourself to Choose
It occurs to me that the guilt descends when I feel like I have wasted time. And whilst part of that is the lack of recognition that doing nothing has value. But, it’s not so simple. Doing nothing often happens in the moments betwixt and between. Before one takes the next step or engages in the next task. We then few those breaks as missed opportunities and wasted time. Whether that’s lingering too long sitting in bed or promising yourself you’ll stop watching TV or reading in a few moments.
Instead it’s important to make doing nothing intentional. Make the choice not only to put yourself first. But to put yourself first in this way. Acknowledge your bodies and minds need for a change of pace. Especially after a physically or emotionally draining day. If you’re choosing to engage in this way, then there should be no guilt. You are doing something productive for you. And, it didn’t just happen because you became distracted or were being lazy. You seized the opportunity to empower and boost yourself.
How do you find value in doing nothing? Have you noticed how it feels when you do? Why do you think it is important? As always, let us know below!