Why We Stay Busy When We’re Not & The Benefits of Doing Nothing


Joe Martino | Collective-Evolution

Have you ever sat down to relax only to notice yourself pick up your phone or laptop a couple minutes later to play some random time killing game or simply scroll aimlessly through your Facebook news feed? This is basically something we do to distract ourselves and we don’t even know it. We keep ourselves from truly just doing nothing. But why? Why do we stay so busy even when we are doing nothing?

Earlier this year I finally completed a 2 year long project I had been working on (new documentary you can watch here!) I thought that once I was done I would finally have time to just chill out and do nothing! But it didn’t happen that way. Instead I ended up finding more things to do or taking on more projects and things that were waiting in the wings. You could say it was the natural progression things flowed in, but at the same time I wanted to take a break and literally just do nothing for a few weeks, or even a whole month. But part of me just can’t let that happen. I either feel guilt or worry that I should be doing more. Making sure things are flowing smoothly with CE or making sure I answer all my emails or prepare for the next project on the go. The list could go on forever if I let it.

Then I started to look into the whole thing, why do I feel comfortable when I’m busy? Simply put, I was so busy for so long that it became a habit! My mind and body got used to having a lot of things on the go at once in order to manage all that was happening, and although some time was taken along the way to relax, taking extended periods of time to do nothing was not happening in my life for a solid 2 years. As I wore myself thin, I saw it taking longer and longer to do tasks that generally took me no time at all. It was as if suddenly I was no longer a well oiled and maintained machine because I wasn’t taking the time to let the baby rest!

I find that since I have begun to slowly take the time to really just do nothing, my body has become a lot more relaxed and my soul has taken a much needed breath. Even though I have always been one to have a lot on the go all of the time and usually handle it well, there’s certainly great benefit for everyone in taking time to just relax, think about nothing and do nothing.

I have begun to challenge my guilt and curiosity of new projects by simply asking myself “Is there truly reason to feel guilty? Can’t these projects wait a couple days or even a week?” Simply being aware and taking the time to ask ourselves these things often shoots down many of the fickle mind stories we tell ourselves about why we “must” feel certain things.

Below is an article on the topic that I found refreshing. Check it out and be sure to let us know what you do to stay chilled out and relaxed.

Written by Nicole Liloia over at Tinybuddha.com

“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” ~Lao Tzu

How many times in a day do you tell yourself you are busy and have too much to do? In a week? In a month?

How many of those times are you actually busy doing “nothing?” You know the “nothing” that I am talking about—the nothing that means you are watching hours of mindless TV, roaming the internet, or playing a game that you can’t seem to tear yourself away from on your smartphone.

I’ve been there and done that, and I still do it sometimes. I know what it’s like to feel drained and tired and to want a break from real life for a bit so that you can recharge and refresh yourself.

And I know what it’s like to choose to tune out/zone out/disconnect instead and how that ends up causing you to feel even more worn out and overwhelmed than before you took that so-called break to do “nothing” for a while.

We tell ourselves that it’s okay to do “nothing” and that we deserve some downtime, but we really don’t believe it and that is why we choose to occupy that time with activities that don’t allow us to recharge. We want others to believe that we are as busy as they are, so we distract ourselves with those mindless tasks.

I resisted “doing nothing” on its own for a long time without realizing it. I tried to do it while reading a book and watching TV and texting friends (yes all at the same time) and I burnt myself out.

I couldn’t focus anymore and I had trouble completing my work when I needed to.

I told everyone that I was busy and stressed out, but I really wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing and my workload was getting larger and the quality of my work was decreasing, all because I wouldn’t give myself permission to take a genuine break and “do nothing.”

It wasn’t until I left a stressful work situation and took some time to travel in South America for a few months that I learned the difference between being busy “doing nothing” and just “doing nothing.”

It was there that I was challenged to just be, as I was traveling by myself, didn’t have any work to bury myself in, and there was no TV or phone to distract myself with.

It was scary at first to be alone with my own thoughts and feelings and I actually felt anxious, as I experienced sadness, anger, and worry without any way to divert my attention from them. However, as those feelings came up I was able to deal with them and release them, and that was what allowed me to feel rested and recharged.

Even better, when you stop distracting yourself, you also get to enjoy your comfortable feelings such as excitement, happiness and joy on a more intense level.

Now you don’t have to leave your job and travel to South America to learn how to just do nothing; there are ways to experience this in our everyday life.

For example, we don’t give ourselves permission to take a walk in the park and notice the changing leaves. Instead, we check in with a friend or work on the cell phone and let them know we are busy “exercising.”

We don’t give ourselves permission to enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with a friend as we talk about how grateful we are for what we have. Instead, we meet with a friend after months of trying to schedule something and end up trying to compete over who is the most overwhelmed.

We don’t give ourselves permission to have fun at the beach with our family where the only thing we should worry about is remembering to put sunblock on. Instead, we get annoyed by our kids who want to play with us while we try to read “that book” that everyone is raving about that we have no interest in but feel like we are supposed to read.

Well let me share something with you: All of those things that you keep busy with when you say you are “doing nothing” are distractions. 

They are distractions that are preventing you from connecting with others on a deeper level. They are distractions that are actually contributing to your feelings of exhaustion and unease.

I want to challenge you to try doing some nothing and enjoy the downtime. Spend some time just being where you are and enjoying this downtime either by yourself or with others. Tell yourself that it’s okay to spend some time really, truly “doing nothing.”

Now, you may be figuring out how to do nothing, and I don’t want you to waste your time worrying about that, so here are some ways to try this “doing nothing” thing out:

Sit on a park bench and enjoy the fresh air, take a nap if you need some extra sleep, enjoy a cup of coffee out while you spend some time people watching, call a friend or family member and only talk about happy events in your lives, like in your backyard and watch the clouds roll by, or get lost in a magazine or a few chapters of a funny book.

Read the rest of the article…

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