There is no question that 2020 has been a year that tested all of us.
We woke up one day to a completely new world full of new worries, fears, regulations, and more stress. It is a year that has challenged us to get through each day, one at a time, while wishing the year would end because all we want is for life to go back to normal.
It is also a year that had us retreating into our houses to protect each other, but despite the fact we spent more time at home, we somehow found less time to ourselves. Many of us switched to working from home, which meant more screen time and turning places where we used to relax into home offices or classrooms. Suddenly, our sanctuaries disappeared behind our need for a new schedule and new ways to stay busy.
The stress of the year has broken many of us down to the point all we care about is getting through the day in one piece, which matters more than anything, including the dirty dishes and laundry. But how are we getting through each day? By staring at our screens or being on the phone all day for work or school, binge-watching shows, and scrolling aimlessly through social media for hours. And that is okay if that is what we need to do in these hard times; in fact, it is probably natural for us to seek comfort in these digital vices, considering the consumer-based world we live in.
Whether we realize it or not, we spend most of our waking hours consuming things, and not just at the stores. Our brains have learned to constantly consume information, to constantly consume activity because our society is not set up for us to slow down, which is why we need to choose to do nothing sometimes.
Many people I work with mention their desire for more “me time” now that they are stuck at home with their families and jobs all day, and that a moment of silence would be worth its weight in gold. When we break it down, we realize it isn’t about needing time for ourselves, it is about us learning to be intentional with how we spend our time.
There always seems to be one more episode to watch or a few extra minutes to scroll social media, a million ways to feed our brain’s addiction through constant exterior input, which makes slowing down feel almost unnatural. Often, our “me time” is even centered around spending time with others or staring at a screen of sorts. We just don’t know how to do “nothing” anymore; we don’t know how to slow down.
In fact, many of us will discover that doing nothing is more challenging than turning to our screens to zone out. It may even make some of us anxious—being alone with ourselves can be a scary, but an incredibly freeing experience when we are the ones choosing to do it. Once we start doing more “nothing,” we may even start being more intentional with our choices elsewhere in life.
But how do we do nothing in an age that is constantly bombarding us with an information overload and encourages us to stay constantly busy? Doing nothing doesn’t have to mean finding time to meditate. But meditation has many similar health benefits, such as relaxing our bodies, helping us accept our true selves, finding peace of mind in the hustle and bustle of the modern world, improving our memory, and giving our brain and body time to grow and heal.
Through choosing to intentionally do nothing, we can also create a trickle effect for other aspects of our life, like passing up on a second slice of cake or adding more nutritious items to our meals. We may trade in aimless phone scrolling for enjoying a new book; instead of burning out, we may acknowledge that we need to slow down; and instead of obsessing over a new show or social media account, we may choose to spend more meaningful time with our family.
So, here are some ways we can practice doing nothing in 2021:
The most basic form of doing nothing is to find a favorite yoga pose or comfortable position and stay there for one minute and eventually work your way up to 15 or more minutes of stillness. Meditation helps our stress levels decline, and it helps our ability to ward off insomnia and depressive thoughts.
Instead of drinking your tea inside, scrolling through emails, and going over the day’s plans, sit outside on your patio or porch and enjoy a hot cup of tea or coffee in silence. Try focusing on the way the wind feels on your skin or the taste of your drink as it hits your tongue.
Put Your Phone Down
At bedtime, leave your phone out of the room and get into bed five minutes earlier than usual and focus on relaxing every part of your body individually.
Instead of streaming one more episode when you’re asked if you are “still watching,” choose to pause for three to five minutes with your eyes closed before making the choice to continue.
Fill a bowl with warm water, drape a towel over you and the bowl, and focus on your breathing until the steam lets up.
There are countless ways to do nothing once we start doing it. Let’s choose to be silent and still, even for the briefest amount of time, every day in the new year.
2020 may almost be over, but the challenges it has thrown at us are not going to change at the stroke of midnight.
Let’s make 2021 the year we do nothing for ourselves, so it won’t just be another year we survive—it’ll be a year we change for the better.