The case for doing nothing

Originally written for published 7 January 2016


What are you doing this summer?  We always get asked this and there’s always an urge to answer in a way that demonstrates how popular, busy and filled with doing-ness we are.  Christmas, new year’s and summer holidays with family and friends doing something cool, somewhere with lots of people also being busy.

Our society has an obsession with being busy in all facets of our lives and it’s perfectly acceptable to have ‘so much to do’ all the time, including when we’re ‘relaxing’. Technology lets us be more connected more of the time so we don’t ‘miss out’ on anything important, especially when we’re on holiday.

As a result, we’re increasingly more exhausted, more disconnected from ourselves, our families and our friends and more wound up, unable to ‘switch off’.  Our modern lifestyle contributes to common health issues – raised blood pressure and cholesterol; higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and strokes; sleep and fertility issues.

For these reasons I’m advocating for a summer of doing nothing.

I don’t mean we should be shutting ourselves away from the rest of the world (although as an introvert I find this very appealing) or lying on the couch and eating our body weight in chocolate (which again is appealing on some level).

What I mean is that we should slow down this summer and take it all in. Bring back the lazy days of summer as we remembered them as kids, full of fun stuff with people we love and days that stretched on forever.

Instead of being consumed with always having something to do, somewhere to be or someone to meet, take a breath and just be.  Rather than always thinking of what’s next, wherever you are and whatever you choose to do this summer, be all there.  Be mindful of the moments you’re in, the experiences you have and the connections you make with others and yourself.  You might surprise yourself with some epiphany moments.

Corporations and governments pause and take time to review where they’ve been and make decisions about where they are going (let’s call it strategic planning). We should be able to take strategic planning time for our own lives too.

We need to create the mental space to be able to reflect, review and make decisions about the future.  If we’re always being busy, and doing stuff rather than just being, we simply don’t have the space to do this.

Focusing on being, instead of doing, allows our bodies the rest needed to regenerate and build our energy up.  When we’re stressed by life – work, money, relationships – when we’re running on adrenaline and burning the candle at both ends, we’re using our ‘fight or flight’ function to cope.  As a result, our body’s repair functions are impaired, our immune system is compromised and our energy levels are low.

Take the stress out by giving yourself the permission to do nothing – and let your body rejuvenate.

A few weeks off at summer, doing nothing, provides the perfect environment to reflect and gather our thoughts.  It allows us to switch off, unwind and build energy we’ve been expending all year.