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.