The art of doing nothing

I remember listening to a talk, I think by Alan Wallace, where he was talking about the discomfort people have of doing nothing. He shared about how people are so uncomfortable in being with their own thoughts, they would rather play a pointless game such as Solitaire than be alone with their own thoughts.

Yesterday on the way home, I saw an elderly gent on the train occupy himself by playing a game for a full half hour. It was the game ‘coin drop’ which is essentially the app version of dropping two pence coins into the arcade machine and hoping to get a nice booty prize of some sort. Except it was an app. With no booty prize.

I hear people moan about how ineffective mindfulness is as a practice. That it can’t even be defined, so how do you know if you’re practicing it? That there’s no evidence base for it’s benefits, so why do it? There is an evidence base for practicing mindfulness, just not the kind these people are searching for.

I hear people who talk about how they struggle with ‘turning off’, that they need a ‘digital detox’, that they are ‘addicted’ to their smartphone.

There are people who professionally produce content and post on social media which fills our timelines with content we want to consume. (Not forgetting the bots that do a fair more than a chunk of social media positing). And by consuming the content, we are then almost driven to comment in some way – or at least offer a ‘Like’.

And as we read and see how everyone seems to be living their lives, we find ourselves in the quandary that I can’t have time to do nothing, because then I can’t live up to an unsaid expectation that I have to keep up with everyone else.

Which is quite exhausting.

And leaves no time for self-care.

Or allows us to justifiably do nothing.

Sometimes, we just need time for ourselves, and that’s ok.

Sometimes we need to sit with our thoughts, and then discern if we need to talk to someone about our thoughts or not.

Sometimes we need to do something on our own and experience things from our own point of view.

Sometimes we need to not be with others so that we can appreciate the time we do have with them that much more.

Such is the state of things today that people feel that being on their own isn’t a good thing to have available to ourselves.

And I’m not advocating for loneliness or solitude. Because we know that those things are social ills and cause much ill-health.

I am advocating that when there is nothing to do, perhaps we should just allow nothing to happen.


Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

One thought on “The art of doing nothing”

  1. An interesting read and so relevant to the times we live in. Thanks for sharing. I have a poetry blog here on WordPress and today’s poem is all about doing nothing in case you have time to look? Have a relaxing day! Sam 🙂

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