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11 Ways to Enjoy Doing Nothing and be Happier

Updated on July 11, 2016

Most people find free time hard to enjoy. It is much easier for most of us to toil and be successful than do nothing. Why do we have a hard time enjoying free time?

The reason may be due to feeling of guilt, fear or pressure. In today’s age of competition and achievement, we tend to measure or weight everything in terms of success and we place very little importance on enjoyment or happiness. We are trained to be effective and successful, but we are not given skills to be happy or joyful.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi observes that "...many of us think we can hardly wait to get home and be alone with nothing to do, but that's a worst-case scenario. If you're alone with nothing to do, the quality of your experience really plummets."

So how do we enjoy our free time doing nothing? Does everyone already know the art of doing nothing?

Doing nothing feels like floating on warm water to me. Delightful, perfect.

— Ava Gardner

1. Be free from the guilt of doing nothing:

The first way to enjoy doing nothing and be happy is to forget feeling of guilty and to just take the time to zone out.

Many of us may be baffled by the concept of deliberately doing nothing. Due to years of mental conditioning from childhood, the guilt of deliberately doing nothing would not come off easily. As keeping oneself busy or hard work is more of a trend in the present world.

We are all taught early in life that we should work hard to achieve our goals. So it is hard to laze around without that nagging feeling that we need to be doing something.

It has not always been this way. As the Bible recorded in Genesis in the beginning there was nothing; it was 'empty', 'void'. Monks have been spending a lot of time even their entire life-spans doing nothing but just praying and chanting since longed back.

Apart from our conditioning or nurturing and social norms, this guilt is being reinforced by a Calvinistic and Puritanical culture that wants us to work hard.

By understanding that it hasn’t always been this way, hopefully it would be easier to shake it off. It is O.K. to do nothing once in a while (NOT always).

2. Sleep in or take a nap

Another great way to do nothing is sleeping. It will cut into your opportunity to be productive, but this will be the most comfortable and restorative way of doing nothing in the long term.

Lying down or sleeping may not be really ideal when you are in public or in office. If you can find a quiet place in your office, it is well and good; otherwise go somewhere quiet, like a church or a park, and close your eyes for ten minutes or so.

Taking a nap not only makes you productive for your office but it is also good for your health. Research has shown that a daily snooze can reduce the risk of heart attack. And just knowing you’re going to nap after lunch seems to make the morning less stressful.

3. Take a stroll

Take a stroll in a park or your backyard garden, or lay in a field on the grass in the garden. Smell the grass beneath or look at the beautiful leaves and flowers. Listen to the chirping sounds of the birds sitting on the trees or flying by.

Try to sink into oblivion. Absorb the distant sounds. Blend into your surrounding nature.

Slowing down and taking a stroll gives you the perfect opportunity to appreciate all the beauty around you. You may be amazed as you observe for the first time all those things you had previously missed.

4. Relax your body

Go out in a park or some other natural setting. Pick a spot and wriggle in there comfortably. Get all the things you’ll need beforehand, and retire. Unplug from the internet for a while, switch-off your smart phone and laptop.

5. Glance at the sky

Observe the movement of the stars and the moon at night. Spot a constellation. It is also a great method of practicing patience.

Lie on a patch of grass on a nice day and watch the clouds go by overhead. Doing nothing can easily be dignified by calling it “cloud spotting.” It gives a purpose to your dawdling. Look up at the ever-changing skies and spot the cirrus and the cumulonimbus or the various types of clouds.

You may also sit and watch an entire sunset or sunrise.

Who do you enjoy your free time doing nothing?

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6. Watch people

You can learn so much from the many silent teachers around you in the form of the people you meet every day or even complete strangers.

Happiness is the simple joy of being able to notice beauty and brilliance in the people and in the nature that surrounded us.

People watching involve observing people and their interactions, usually without their knowledge such as body language, expressions, clothing and dressing etc.

Do you want to consider watching people as your hobby?

7. Try Wandering

Wander aimlessly without any purpose or destination. Kids are good wanderers.

Stop to sit and relax whenever you see an appealing place like garden, park or bench.

Try making a deliberate effort to slow down your walking pace. You’ll find yourself coming alive, and you’ll enjoy simply soaking in the day.

8. Meditate

Meditation is an accepted way of doing nothing. It is not thinking. A meditation is allowing your thoughts to occur, unaffected. There are a various ways to meditate. Traditional mindfulness meditation is the simplest and most accessible. It can take the form of yoga, nature, breathing, or prayer.

In meditation you can indulge in contemplation, reflection, pleasure, thinking, without any fear of disapproval or contempt.

Let your thoughts of work, worries, family etc., GO - not by simply letting them go, but by watching them leave from a distance. Doing this not only allows your body to do nothing but your mind as well.

Shed your worries as much as you can and revel in feeling lighter and less encumbered.

The point of mediation, of doing nothing, is not an end in itself. It is a way to calm the mind, to see the true nature of things, and reduce the impact of suffering while increasing love, kindness, wisdom, fearlessness, sympathy and happiness.

9. Bring Back Sundays

Many religions observe one day in a week as day of rest and worship. Jewish / Judaism observed Sabbath on Saturday.In some Muslim countries and Israel, Sunday is the first work day of the week. Christians all over the world observed Sunday. In the same way, secular world also embraced Sundays as a day of rest.

But in the present world of 24/7 work culture, Sundays are as busy and stress-filled as any other day or even more busy and stressful.

Having a day of rest is a very practical idea: respite from all labor or works and devoting time to pleasure and family.

Try to make one day during the week as a day for doing nothing.

10. Take a sip

Go to a café alone without anything to read or do. Just order a cup of coffee or tea. Sip it slowly for as long as you can.

11. Listen to Music

Put a comfy chair by a window in your home and just sit and listen to soft music like country song.

Doing nothing...be happier

A lot of people say that they are too busy to do nothing. But recalled what Sydney J. Harris says "The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

Doing nothing feels like the complete opposite of being productive.But the fact is that nothingness is a gift which breaks the stress cycle and makes you rather more productive. Doing nothing can be a great investment into your personal well-being and even healing to the planet. It is precisely our restless activity that has caused the environmental crisis.

When we consciously stop seeing and thinking then we often start seeing and understanding things as they really are.

Many innovative ideas begin with nothingness. Most great artists have their moments of inspiration while dreaming and imagining; roaming around in a world of their own imagination.

Human body needs to slow down, rest and re-energise. What better way than to just sit and do nothing? This also give us a chance to think about things and reflect on what’s really going on. May be a solution to that niggling problem will flash into our head.

Sitting down and just doing nothing gives us a chance to become more self-aware of what’s going on within us and around us.

Idleness / doing nothing is not evil when done in moderation. Doing nothing on a regular basis is very healthy for your mind, body, and emotional life. It doesn’t require a huge change in our lifestyles. Perhaps we just need a change in our thinking. Once we experience the benefits of doing nothing it may become a regular part of our schedule.

Do you struggle with doing nothing? Have you experienced any other means of doing nothing that you could add to this list?

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