Bruno Mars was right.
Do you remember “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars?
Back in the day, we would all post renditions of the iconic music video on Facebook only to be embarrassed by it every year, thanks to Facebook’s yearly reminders. The bane of my existence. Despite its release in 2011, the song’s message of “not doing anything” is more relevant than ever.
Since the dawn of time, humans have been wrapped up in the pursuit of productivity. While physically distancing, it’s important—and healthy—to pause and just do nothing. Trust me, you do not need to take up baking sourdough to validate your self-worth.
Think about it. When was the last time you did absolutely nothing? In this fast-paced and digital world, we don’t catch ourselves in the state of nothing-ness very often.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Technically, you’re never not doing something.” Well yes, technically, you’re correct. Assuming we’re not literally dead, we’re always doing something.
But if we train our brains to allow for mental breaks, some pretty incredible stuff can happen.
The case for doing nothing
In a world that preaches productivity, we often fail to address the very problem that stops us from getting things done—distractions.
Since the industrial revolution, humans have essentially hardwired themselves to be instruments of productivity. The longer we work, the more we accomplish, right? Well, not exactly. Recent neuroscience research has discovered that downtime is more important for our brains than we thought.
Countless studies have linked periods of rest and “aimlessness” to increased productivity. As someone who likes to glue themselves to their seat and not move until I have created something revolutionary, this hits home.
And it makes sense. When you’re working with no end in sight, how motivated are you to keep going? Alternatively, when you remember you scheduled a break, it’s a lot easier to power through.
Science has also informed us that being “too busy” is counterproductive. Ever spend a Saturday convinced you’re going to get through something, but end up worming your way around everything but that one task? In the words of Twitter, it really do be like that sometimes.
It’s kind of like when you get a new phone, and the battery lasts for days. Then after a year or so, it starts to deteriorate from how much you use it. Your brain is the same. As much as we love to think we’re invincible, the truth is, we’re just as fragile and delicate as the iPhone 11.
Embrace the art of nothing-ness
The problem is, doing nothing is often pinned as ‘being lazy.’ But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Numerous studies point to the importance of taking mental breaks. For example, researchers at University College London observed that working more than 55 hours a week increases your risk of having a stroke by 33 per cent. This is compared to those who work 35-40 hours.
As well, research by the American Journal of Epidemiology concluded that workdays exceeding more than ten hours increase the risk of coronary heart risk by 80 per cent.
Basically, science is telling us to chill out.
And while shutting our brains off might seem like the last thing we want while working from home, I guarantee some well-deserved rest will help you in more ways than one.
Here are 6 other reasons to embrace doing nothing:
1. Naps. Need we say more? Every student knows the gift of a nap in the middle of a stressful day is the most satisfying thing ever. Why do you think we created the IGNITE Sleep Lounge? Not only that, but naps are also linked to increased focus and productivity.
2. It’s not laziness, it’s self-care. The term ‘self-care’ gets thrown around a lot. But beyond the fancy facemasks and bubble baths, a walk around the block or shameless afternoon nap is the most affordable treat you can give yourself.
3. It builds relationships. While we don’t condone hanging out with new love interests during this time, doing nothing at home can promote the relationships you already have. For once, eat at the dinner table with your family. Make time to FaceTime your cousin in Florida who you never talk to. Lay on the couch with your sibling and talk about anything.
These activities may not be productive, but they’re definitely beneficial.
4. It actually lets you relax, guilt-free. Do you feel relaxed after a long day of classes, trying to get to the gym, and then an agonizing two-hour transit ride home? Probably not. But you’ll definitely feel better knowing you can curl up in bed and watch Gossip Girl for the third time because you scheduled it in.
So go on and indulge, guilt-free.
5. It can help you be more creative. Writer’s block, artist’s block, hitting a wall. Call it what you want, but we’ve all been there. It’s hard coming up with innovative ideas when you’re forced to. Taking a moment to chill lets your mind refresh itself. This way, you’re coming back renewed and ready to focus.
6. It can even boost your mood. If all this working from home has left you feeling like a broken record on repeat, it might be time to pause. Taking 30 minutes or an hour during your workday lets your mind vacation from your to-do list. Nobody’s in a good mood when they’re stressed, so taking a few minutes to direct your attention elsewhere can help you see the bigger picture.
The quarantine productivity complex
We’re obsessed with letting the world know we’re busy. When we’re not consumed by the latest TikTok cover of “Toosie Slide,” we’re plagued by the never-ending cycle of tasks on our plate.
For some reason, humans have decided it’s okay to let ourselves be overworked to the point where we can’t get out of bed in the morning from exhaustion. This isn’t healthy.
In this weird time, we’ve got a dichotomy of messaging coming our way. On the one hand, social media is pushing us to feel guilty for not coming out of quarantine with a new hobby, language, or skill. On the other hand, we have influencers and media outlets encouraging users to just be kind to ourselves.
I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
So just how exactly can we do nothing?
Doing nothing doesn’t have to mean staring at the ceiling fan until your head spins. You can do whatever it is you do daily, just without distractions:
- Take a shameless nap and enjoy all the lovely perks listed above
- Have a cup of tea on your porch in the morning
- Take a walk (without your phone) and really take in your surroundings
- Read a book, with no time limit
- Catch up with a friend on the phone (and don’t talk about how overwhelmed and busy you both are)
- Have a board game night with your quarantine gang
It doesn’t matter how you decide to do nothing, just make sure you’re not distracted by guilt. When you’re used to working nonstop, it feels criminal to not be crossing off tasks on your to-do list, but you have to trust yourself. Give yourself permission not to do anything.
In our culture of busyness, how precious is it to just stop and say, “today, I don’t feel like doing anything.” After all, with everything going on, the least we can do is give ourselves a break.
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