Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Doing nothing … and loving it.

Long ago, when my son, B, was too little to fully understand what exactly I did all day at the office (copywriting), I told him that I was busy working, to which he retorted, “But you’re not doing anything. You’re just sitting there.” Of course I wasn’t physically “doing” anything, but I was hard at work nonetheless. I also didn’t have enough time for myself because I was running around trying to earn a living, be a mom, a daughter and doing countless other tasks. I would feel guilty if I just paused for a while to take stock and re-charge.

These days, when my work schedule is a lot lighter, people would ask me, “So how do you pass the time?” and I would answer, “Oh, nothing much”, and not feel bad about it at all! Growing up, if I was seen to be seemingly doing nothing, I would be told off for wasting time. Now, in my advancing years, I don’t give a hoot what people think, and in fact feel that after decades of working my tail off, I am entitled to some downtime.

The kind of downtime I am talking about is not one where I’m still being stimulated, such as watching TV, reading a book or chatting on the phone. Instead, it’s one in which my mind is quiet and still.

Society might frown on such idleness as unproductive and downright lazy, but as it turns out, neuroscientists are finding the exact opposite to be true. We need to carve time out of our lives to be quiet and create empty space in our heads for new ideas to arise. Constantly keeping busy and filling every waking moment to check off our to-do lists allows no room in our minds for fresh ideas and renewal to arise.

I’m not one to go on a retreat far away to meditate in order to feel renewed and rejuvenated. I seem to have perfected the art of entering a state of idleness quite easily, not focused on anything in particular. Apparently this produces many health benefits, including a reduced heart rate, better digestion and improved well-being. This mental downtime allows our brains to process and file things, leaving us more rested and clear-headed.

I’ve found that one of the best times in the day to do nothing is in the morning. It’s wonderful waking up and not having to dash off for breakfast, the gym, meetings etc. Falling back to sleep doesn’t count. Instead, I allow my mind to wander and gradually grow into an awareness of my surroundings, feeling a deep sense of contentment. Some of my friends know of my penchant for this quiet state that they sometimes call up in the morning and ask resentfully, “Are you lolling again?”

If I am guilty of lolling, I now can rationalize it and give a scientific benefit of replenishing my mind. There are loads of articles that you can read on the effectiveness of doing nothing. Right now, I think I need to hone it to perfection. Excuse me while I go practice!

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