People Should Just Do Nothing (Occasionally)

Doing nothing is the new doing something, and your social media profile will love the hashtaggable buzzword at its core.

01 art of idling

Forget “Hygge”—the Danish ritual of enjoying life’s simple pleasures that’s, like, so five years ago, darling—2019 is all about “Niksen.”

It’s a Dutch word that literally means “doing nothing at all.” Not in the style of an apathetic TV addict or an inebriated ne’er-do-well, mind you: Niksen has a more profound ideology at its core. Here’s what we learned about it from Dutch stress and burnout coach Carolien Hamming.

How Niksen works
“No matter where we are—at work, at home, with a friend or at the gym—our inner voice always says: ‘Do something useful!’ whether it be for yourself, your family or the ‘world’
in general. Niksen is therefore difficult to do because it encourages the opposite. Niksen permits you to switch off. Power down your mobile. Stroke the cat or the dog. Stare ahead of you. Sit in a chair. Lie on the couch. Do absolutely nothing, even just for five minutes.”

Why we should bother doing nothing
“In the wild, most animals do nothing two-thirds of their time. They yawn, look around, sit and wait until a little snack comes by. Lazing around is part of our nature, which we seem to have disregarded. We need it on a daily basis to stay healthy and avoid lifestyle diseases, such as burnout.”

Why doing nothing isn’t easy
“It’s a word with a rather negative connotation: When we ask each other on Monday, ‘How was your weekend?’ nobody says, ‘I tried to do as little as possible’—that’s not sexy. In Niksen, you have to believe that doing nothing isn’t worthless. In fact, many good ideas arise when you’re daydreaming. You just have to get tired of being busy first.”

Allow us, if you will, to guide you through the ancient art of not lifting a finger:

1. Embrace the contemplative life
Historically, all the world’s greatest minds—Plato, Einstein, Rachel Riley—spent tonnes of time just thinking before they became geniuses, so it didn’t do them any harm. So don’t feel guilty for doing the same: Assume a comfortable position, and let your mind take the scenic route.

2. Stare at stuff
Trees from a bus window. People across an office. Patterns on a ceiling. Given the right application, gazing at clouds from your back garden can pass time with the same precision as a deep-lying Italian midfielder.

3. Draw something
Preferably something outside that’s alive. Like a skyline. Or a flower. Or a river. Why? Focusing your attention on small details forces you to unravel the glorious nuances of nature. (Okay, so you do have to lift a couple of fingers, but as your daily agitations ebb away, you’ll realise it’s worth it.)

4. Go ‘Bumbling’
A beautifully-monikered pastime involving wandering somewhere without any real purpose. Slow down your walking pace by half and look around a bit. Take the dog 11 stops on the next bus and bumble back home. Do it your way, and do it leisurely.

5. Have a snooze
Napping is golden, we all know that. And now the sun’s getting hotter, you can legitimately do it outside without people thinking you’re insane/maudlin. Relish the ‘you’ moment, shut your eyes on a park bench and think of sod all, it’ll be the most fun you’ve had all day.