The Guide to Happiness

10 Ways to Enjoy Doing Nothing

Advice on how to switch off―no thoughts of your to-do list―from a man who has devoted his career to the idyllic art of idling.

By Tom Hodgkinson
Woman sleeping outside with a book in her hand  Thayer Allyson Gowdy


 6. Bring back Sundays. Many religions still observe a Sabbath, whether it’s Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. And for a long time secular society embraced Sundays as a day of rest, too. But now Sundays are as busy and stress-filled as any other day. Having a day of rest was a very practical idea: We were excused from all labor and devoted ourselves to pleasure and family. Take that ancient wisdom to heart and declare at least one day of the week as a do-nothing day. Don’t clean the house or do the laundry; don’t get in the car. Stay home and eat chocolate and drink wine. Be kind to yourself.
 
 7. Lie in a field. Doing nothing is profoundly healing―to yourself and to the planet. It is precisely our restless activity that has caused the environmental crisis. So do some good by taking a break from “doing” and go and lie on your back in a field. Listen to the birds and smell the grass.
 
 8. Gaze at the clouds. Don’t have a field nearby? Doing nothing can easily be dignified by calling it “cloud spotting.” It gives a purpose to your dawdling. Go outside and look up at the ever-changing skies and spot the cirrus and the cumulonimbus.
 
 9. Take a nap. To indulge in a siesta after lunch is the most wonderful luxury: It softens tempers and guards against grumpiness. Yet our culture has decided that naps are for wimps. A nap is acceptable only if it is called a “power nap”―a short doze that is supposed to return you to the office with more energy to kick some ass. But you should nap, not for the profit of a corporation but for your own health. Research has shown that a daily snooze can reduce the risk of heart attack. And just knowing you’re going to sleep after lunch seems to make the morning less stressful. If curling up in your office isn’t an option, go somewhere quiet, like a church or a park bench, and close your eyes for even just five minutes.
 
 10. Pretend to meditate. For us westerners, meditation is an accepted way of doing nothing. Tell everyone you’re going to meditate, then go into your bedroom, shut the door, and stare out the window or read or lie down for half an hour. You have excused yourself from household tasks and can indulge in contemplation, reflection, and that underrated pleasure, thinking, without fear of disapproval.

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