Do Nothing for Your Health

Did that headline confuse you? It probably did. But we promise it’s not clickbait! Today we’re talking about a European wellness concept that could help your health. It’s called niksen. And it’s about actively doing nothing to benefit your health.

In the past, we’ve written about the Danish concept of coziness called hygge. Getting cozy and appreciating the small things in life can be excellent as the winter approaches. We’ve also written about the Dutch concept of uitaaien, or walking in windy, cool weather to help stress and relax. The theory is that it will blow away your worries. And there is some science to it!

Niksen is another wellness theory that could help you unwind this fall. This concept from the Netherlands is that actively doing nothing is medically good for you. It is supposed to help you recover from stress and prevent burnout. Reducing stress lowers the effects of aging and can support your immune system. And studies have found that niksen can aid problem-solving abilities and foster your creative thinking. Allowing your mind to wander while doing nothing enables you to gain clarity and find purpose.

Niksen isn’t as easy as it sounds. That’s especially true for Americans who are used to always doing something. We live in a culture that promotes activity. Actively trying to just be lazy and hang out can actually feel “quite creepy” when you start, according to Carolien Hamming, managing director of CSR Centrum, a coaching center in the Netherlands. But she said, “Dare to be idle. It is all about allowing life to run its course, and to free us from obligations for just a moment.”

Ruut Veenhoven, a sociologist and professor at Erasmus Univ. Rotterdam suggested, “Simply sitting in a chair or looking out of the window,” as a way to start. If the idea of being purposefully idle makes you uncomfortable, schedule it into your day. Making it an action of inaction might make you feel less guilty about taking time out of your busy life to do it. It might make you feel silly to build a window of time into your calendar for spacing out, but it can help your health!

And if you do feel silly at first, that’s okay too. “The important thing is not to fight it or think I shouldn’t feel guilty about this, which can lead to feeling guilty about feeling guilty,” said Olga Mecking, a Polish writer. She leaned into practicing Niksen when she more to the Netherlands. “Just accept that we’re feeling guilty and try and sit with that for a while and see what happens. Does it go away after we’ve had a chance to daydream a bit and see we’re feeling more relaxed? The productivity expert Chris Bailey claims that we feel guilty when our actions don’t align with our values and that a solution to the guilt could be to learn to value doing nothing and relaxation.”

Practicing niksen this fall and winter may help you feel less stressed, more relaxed and more contented. Try it out. It can be a great way to unwind and boost your immune system!

Banner image: Kampus Production via Pexels

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