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The best holiday activity is doing nothing

Author: The Simple Bit

Category: Science

We've trained ourselves to feed off stress and busy-ness. Before your next holiday, teach your brain to do less.

The simple bits:

  • Not doing much is really good for you
  • But we’re psychologically pretty bad at it
  • Avoid the schedule packed with activities on your next holiday
  • And work on doing less instead

Doing absolutely nothing can do a whole lot of good. So why are we so bad at it? It takes some effort to train your brain to truly rest, and your next holiday could be the ideal time to give it a shot.

The poet and professional witty person Gertrude Stein once (apparently) said, “It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much, doing nothing, really doing nothing.” Stein said that in the 1930’s, and was being a bit of a smart-arse. 

Jump forward to 2020 and the idea of doing nothing is gaining an almost cult-like dedication. The Dutch even have a word for it: Niksen. Niksen is likened by psychologist and author Doreen Dodgen-Magee, to a car whose engine is running but isn’t going anywhere. It’s actively doing not much. Like putting time aside to look out the window for a bit. Sound appealing?


Niksen in action. Pic by Alexandre Chambon


Doing nothing is awesome

In his TED Talk ‘The Art of Stillness (which has over 3 million views)’, the essayist and travel writer Pico Iyer extols the virtues of slowing down to a stop in order to better process the world. Iyer says, “In an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. And in an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still.” 


“In an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow.”


So why are we bad at it?

Iyer makes it sound beautiful. Poetic even. But when was the last time any of us actually DID it? Probably not that recently. But don’t feel bad. We’re all pretty bad at it.  Writing in Psychology Today, Susan Weinschenk Ph.D posits that we have something called a “busy habit.” “We’re addicted to doing stuff,” she writes. “We have to prove something to ourselves and the world.”

In fact, being busy might not even be a habit. By being stressed all the time, we might even be rewiring our damn brains and changing the way we make decisions. We’re addicted to it. So how do we get around it? Planning, time and a little incentive.

Remove temptation

Hide your devices and remotes and switch your TV off at the wall. Or get outta the house and leave them there! It’s a crazy idea and yes, it’s making me itchy just thinking about it. But try it!

Schedule it in

Like decent sleep, we need to give ourselves a gap in the ol’ diary to get all Niksen. Give yourself an hour. Even if you don’t use it all, it’s a start.

Get comfortable

Just like when you’re pretending to meditate with an app talking in your ear, get your body feeling right so your brain doesn’t get distracted by it.

Use tools

Yes! Help is here and it comes in the form of the Clear Mind Experiment, an online experiment we created with a group of Psychologists. It works to allow you to tailor-make your own calming experience, unbusy your mind and get back to the things that matter. Try it out.

So now you’ve got no excuse not to do nothing. Do you? (Zens out).