Power of Doing Nothing

In life there are times you have to act and times when it’s best to do nothing. “Psychological research shows that the harder we strive to be happy, the less likely we are to achieve that goal.”(1) Our world is so busy and filled with the demand to be busy and productive all the time. Sometimes this becomes a burden and counterproductive. We all need time to just sit and do nothing. To put away the phones, television and even our own racing thoughts. I like to think of it as turning off that laptop for a bit to reset the cache and reboot.

Our minds need that kind of break too.“Doing nothing just by itself can save you from all variety of disasters. Specifically, the ability to do nothing peacefully and calmly, without any distress, is practically a super power for all the control it gives you over your life. Doing nothing is a skill that gives you freedom. It returns your life to your highest brain, letting your executive functioning rule supreme over your appetites. It also makes life less painful in general.” (2)

Obviously, it’s not practical to sit around and do nothing all the time. But, there are times where doing nothing can be helpful to your overall happiness and ultimately be more productive when you are doing something. Many people who do nothing often find a strange state of anxiety, guilt and stress from doing nothing. Some of it is due to a lifetime of pressure to do something all the time. There is anxiety of the future, finances and losing that socially mandated sense of “keeping busy.” Yet, sometimes the best things happen when we slow down and do nothing.  As a little girl, I would spend my summers in the Catskills. Each morning I would go outside of  my grandparents bungalow and catch site of adorable wild bunnies. I would chase them, try and sneak up on them, and once I even set up a trap to catch one. I just wanted one as a pet, but no matter how hard I tried -I never caught one.  One day my grandfather handed me a carrot and said just sit in the grass and do nothing. How in the world can I catch a bunny (feeling like Elmer Fudd -“Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits” ) if I do nothing? At this point, I was willing to try anything -I sat so long doing nothing that I fell asleep in the grass with a carrot still in my hand. When I woke up there was a bunny curled up to my hand eating the carrot. “Happiness really is like a timid animal. And once you stop chasing it, you might just find that it appears naturally of its own accord.”(3)  I learned that day sometimes you just have to do nothing to be happy. To note: I learned much later that my grandfather had gone to a local pet store and placed the bunny in my sleeping arms -I got my bunny and learned a lot.




Living in the Now

Suspend fear and worry and enjoy the moment and space you occupy now.  Living in the Now can mean many things to us all, but to me it means the story of the good china. I grew up hearing and seeing this story unfold. My grandparents had their “everyday dishes” and the good china. They kept that special occasion china on display in the dining room buffet. It was a shrine to the achievement my grandparents had accomplished in saving and acquiring them. My grandmother had eyed them in Macy’s and spent a long time considering the cost of their extravagance. She brought them home like a new child but one that would never be loved just admired from a safe distance. Holidays and birthdays would come and I would ask if we were using the good china but my grandmother just was waiting for that special occasion. My grandparents worked very hard their whole life and saved everything for the day they would need or enjoy the fruit of this effort. Then my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer and died never using her china.
Everyone has their good china in a sense. It may not be actual dishware but something idealized and held out for that special time or use. Maybe it’s that expensive handbag you finally got but are worried about using? Or the lovely jewelry left by a beloved parent you’re afraid to wear and use.  For others it could be that trip to Europe or Alaska they will take when they retire and put off because other things seem more important. The take away for me was that we need to use our good china. We need to enjoy every moment with joy and wonder. This does not mean we should be cavalier or irresponsible but live in the now. We are not entitled to anything beyond the joy we find ourselves.We turn on the news and it’s sad. Life often seems to be a hamster wheel of work and burdensome responsibility. It has become increasingly more important to Live in the Now but and learning how to do that can be challenging. Don’t dwell on the negative as nothing good will come of this activity. Try and find the positive even if it’s your ability to navigate and survive a bad event or situation.


  • Some thoughts on how to do this:
  • Love more – Say it, show it,live it.
  • Put aside technology and enjoy your surroundings every day.
  • Stress less and Smile often.
  • Look and acknowledge wonder.
  • Use the good china.
This seems like a simple list but what does it really mean? Make time every day for a chat with a dear friend or tell people you love you do love them. Say nice things to the cashier at the checkout. Show others their value with your time, kindness or patience. Take a long walk with your significant other and leave your cell at home. Talk to each other and notice your surroundings,you will see amazing things if you look. Smiling is healthy so try to find ways to be happier and share that happiness. This is a bit challenging as we often are too busy to actually feel happy. Look for happiness in your life -it’s there you just have to embrace it.
Don’t put off today all the fun wonderful things you plan for tomorrow as nothing in life is promised beyond the wonder of now.