Why The Healthiest Thing You Can Do Sometimes Is Absolutely Nothing

In modern times, being busy is a mark of pride. People strive to be as busy as possible (and make sure other people know about it) because productivity is one of our greatest values. In fact, social critics have noted that our society has become obsessed with productivity (via the University of California, San Diego). People are conditioned to feel guilty for relaxing or taking downtime and are pressured to continue performing in their free time beyond the classroom or the office. Sometimes, the desire to keep busy can stem from the ingrained belief that laziness is a bad thing. Other times, people work around the clock because they believe it's the only way to reach the colossal ambitions they set for themselves.


While there's no doubt that success requires action, critics have also noted that an obsession with productivity can actually be counterproductive (via The Washington Post). Productivity has been prioritized in society since the Great Recession when the U.S. was rife with unemployment, disillusionment, and poverty. But by pushing to achieve maximum output per hour at all costs, you miss out on the wonderful benefits of doing absolutely nothing.

The benefits of idleness on the brain

Idle hands may be the devil's workshop, but they can also lead to several psychological benefits. Psychology Today points out that just because we are busy doesn't mean our brains are also busy. Contrastingly, mindless activities and daydreaming cause the problem-solving parts of the brain to become more active. Our brains continue to solve problems even when we're not aware of them and are particularly active when we don't put them into overdrive. Furthermore, doing nothing allows you to restore your energy so you can focus more deeply later on, and letting our brains rest leads to an increase in insightful creative ideas (via Time Magazine).


Furthermore, Ness Labs highlights that there are also myriad advantages to general laziness. Being lazy gives you time to recharge, which makes you less likely to burn out. Unproductive time can also help you to deal with stress or feel the extent of your emotions rather than suppressing them, leading to improved mental health. Active procrastinators, people who purposely delay working so they can perform under pressure, have been shown to possess significant control over their time and strong coping mechanisms. Doing nothing sometimes is a lot better for you than most people think, but it's not always as easy as it sounds.

How to be idle

When you live in a world that glorifies being so busy that you have zero work-life balance, it can be difficult to actually allow yourself to do nothing. The first step in incorporating idleness into your life is to give yourself permission to be lazy (via CNBC). Try to forget what you've been taught about laziness being a sin and productive people being of higher value than non-productive people. Accept that it's okay — and good for you — to be lazy sometimes.


If the idea of doing nothing is really daunting to you, there are a few ways to get started (via Chill the Duck Out). You could try taking a nap in the middle of the day, go for a walk and leave your phone at home, or people-watch in a public place. Meditation is another great way to do nothing and quieten the mind, even if you only dedicate five to 10 minutes a day to it (via Jeremey DuVall). Another idea to engage in healthy idleness is to schedule time for daydreaming every day. By allowing your mind to be idle, you can recover from the stress that comes with being busy, open yourself up to new ideas, and actually become more productive in the long run.