Always filling your time? Try “niksen”, the Dutch art of doing nothing. It could open your mind and boost your happiness
While the pandemic forced us to slow down on the one hand, the resulting “guilt” of doing nothing at home also meant people were actively seeking things to do. The number of online articles and tips from friends centred around finding things to do at home, trying out new hobbies and keeping busy (physically and mentally) was off the charts. But why? Why do we keep feeling guilty about doing nothing when most of us know that our minds could do with a meaningful break. Why wasn’t even a pandemic enough to allow us to just be? And how can we change this?
What is Niksen
A Dutch concept, it’s the art of doing nothing. “This stress-reducing practice is about simply being, letting go of any 'shoulds' or 'needs' and allowing your mind to wander freely,” explains Catri Barrett, The Curiosity Coach.
Burnout is a real modern-day issue with more and more people finding themselves exhausted and emotionally drained. “These symptoms are caused by excessive external stimulation from always being switched 'on' and plugged in—a side effect of our media-centric connectivity,” says Barrett. While modern technology brings us many benefits, it also limits our ability to connect with ourselves and our inner creative. Just as we charge our phones, we need to take the time to recharge ourselves—and niksen is a wonderful way to do that.
Unlike mindfulness, niksen isn’t about staying present. It’s about letting the mind wander, and not focusing on the details of an action. “With wandering comes wonder. It's like hitting the refresh button in your mind and creating space. It's here within this space that creativity is born, problems are solved, and lightbulb moments can be had,” explains Barrett.
“To prevent our bodies and minds going into overdrive, which can lead to burnout, we should all practice doing nothing at regular intervals during the day, to alleviate the stresses and strains of continuous information overload,” she adds.
Similar to practicing mindfulness, niksen encourages you to live in the moment, to take the pressure off and sit still while time ticks by. Find out which forms of relaxing suit you best because what works for your friend might not work for you. It’s all a process of trial and error.
If you’re tempted to try niksen, here’s some do’s and don’ts for doing nothing:
DO lie on your bed and stare at the ceiling.
DO gaze out of windows and let your mind run wild.
DO pride yourself on doing nothing and having an empty calendar rather than being busy all of the time.
DON'T reach for your phone, you can steal moments of nothing and practice Niksen by keeping your phone in your pocket when you'd usually reach for it to distract yourself, or appear busy. Those times when you're waiting for a friend alone at a table, on your commute to work or in a waiting room.
Read Hattie Crisell’s article on how to live a simple life post-pandemic for more tips on how to stick to the quietness.