Most of us love to keep ourselves busy. We enjoy being busy. Even to the extent of adversely affecting our health. However, some of us may not have any better alternative but to stay busy. As their ‘busyness’ is linked to their livelihood.
This may be primarily true for the poor and economically weaker people. However, for others, being busy with activities signifies success. On the other hand, how busy we keep ourselves is mostly in our hands.
Many of us are overly busy only because of poor time management. Some may more often be oblivious to wasting or mismanaging their time. Also, to perceive us as busy people in demand. We do not wish to give the impression of being lazy or ‘not an important person’.
We are living in a fast-paced and materialistic world. The yardstick for success measures the wealth we have, the status we’ve achieved, and the power we enjoy in society. Somehow, we take busyness as a positive personal attribute and symbol of leading a good life. It’s linked to our personal development and self-worth.
Simply being busy is not a problem, but it becomes a serious issue when busyness is expressed as chronic stress. There may be a correlation between busyness and stress. At some level, outer busyness is felt inwardly as chronic stress. There is little difference between an active, busy, and stressful life—all overlap.
Managing stress is not easy; it calls for a change in our mindset. We should first be convinced that excessive busyness is detrimental to our health. Without self-awareness, it’s tough to handle such a situation. But with proper time management and prioritization of work, we can handle busyness to a great extent.
The Art of Doing Nothing:
More importantly, we must learn to do less or even, at times, to do nothing. Doing nothing is, in fact, more challenging to perform than doing something.
Doing nothing becomes even more complicated when we have other things to do. Even if the other things are unproductive or wasteful. For many, sitting alone in a room and observing our stream of thoughts or breathing seems like a dreadful exercise.
Many are afraid of facing their thoughts. To avoid such situations, we keep ourselves busy. We don’t differentiate the difference between busyness and chronic stress.
We mostly find it difficult to stay in solitude, alone in a room or home. Many of us hate to spend even a few minutes alone somewhere. They are conditioned to remain busy. Some continue to arrange or create some work when we have nothing else to do. We mostly don’t like to enjoy our own company. Observing our thoughts while sitting alone somewhere may be quite a difficult task. Sitting alone in a room and observing our thoughts or breath for some time may be difficult. So, to avoid such situations, we keep ourselves busy with other activities.
‘Doing nothing’ may undoubtedly be more troublesome than doing something. A question about being more comfortable sitting in solitude without doing any work may arise. The answer lies in mindfulness. By practising mindfulness-based meditation, we can easily remain alone and start enjoying our thoughts. We need to be present in the moments at hand and observe things in a non-judgmental way.
It doesn’t mean we sit quietly in a room and get lost in our thoughts. We are not required to think or start analyzing or imagining things. What we need to do is to go beyond the constant stream of thoughts. We should observe our thoughts. Let them come and go. Be aware of the thoughts that arise. We shouldn’t observe thoughts judgmentally.
It means we should avoid passing judgment or assigning meaning to thoughts; what’s needed is simple, pure awareness. This is nothing but a state of mindfulness. By doing so, we increase our awareness of thoughts and ‘Self’ and become more adept at managing our stress levels. Doing nothing has many mental health benefits.
The best thing we can do is start practising mindfulness daily. Our mental stress automatically vanishes when we become focused, and attentive and stay in the present.
The Practice of Niksen:
In the Netherlands, the Dutch people practice ‘Niksen‘, which means doing nothing. Niksen is the art of switching off, doing nothing, and taking time for oneself. It means “doing nothing,” or being idle or doing something without purpose.
During mindfulness meditation, we need to observe our thoughts, in a non-judgemental way. We should be present in the moments at hand. However, Niksen practitioners take some time out to sit quietly. Observe the surrounding environment. People may listen to music or lose themselves in thought. They may take a long walk in their neighbourhood or a pretty forest is a popular choice.
We can relax in a dark room. With growing popularity, Niksen has proven to be an effective remedy for stress and anxiety.
The world in general is becoming healthier. We have become more physically fit compared to what we were 2-3 decades back. Life expectancy has increased. We now live longer. However, the quality of life is gradually deteriorating. An increasing number of people are dying from cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart ailments and other lifestyle diseases. Mental stress has already taken the shape of a health epidemic. The whole of society is in psychological distress. We don’t want to stay in solitude, sit quietly and meditate. We want to keep ourselves busy.
To be busy doesn’t mean we can’t be lonely. Busyness, boredom and loneliness overlap. Undoubtedly, no one dies from being too busy or feeling chronic boredom. However, the way we live in the modern age do lead to many lifestyle diseases. The solution lies in learning to ‘do nothing’. Many mental health benefits are established. We must know how to stay in solitude, to be alone, at ease with our thoughts.