The Art Of Doing Nothing

By Alex Lochhead - Five Element Acupuncturist -

photo provided by Remigiusz Oprzadek

Alex Lochhead, acupuncturist, gives you permission to stop.

I would like to talk to you about nothing.

Specifically, doing nothing.  It has come to my attention that quite a lot of people I meet struggle with it.  This surprises me as I think my default position is ‘off’.   In the Ven diagram of action versus inaction I definitely fall in the lazy overlap.  There does not seem to be much of a debate in my mind about choosing inaction.

However, most people I see in a clinical setting have the opposite, they do not stop and this causes them problems.  They feel overwhelmed.  Stressed.  Exhausted.  Frustrated.  Anxious.  When I suggest they try doing less I get a horrified look mixed with an expression suggesting I’ve said something inappropriate.

Why do some people choose to lead their lives this way?

Do you lead your life this way?

Relaxing, resting and doing pretty much nothing are important aspects of living a balanced life.  The world of twenty-four-seven bucket list itineraries and ‘I’ll rest when I’m dead’ mantras, in my view is clap-trap!  It’s unhealthy and in the main driven by a western philosophy of ‘more is more’.

I think some of it stems from a feeling of missing out, which frankly, if you are an adult over thirty, you need to come to terms with the fact that, yep, you’re going to miss out on some level.  It is not possible to have it all, whatever the Daily Mail and the like try to foist on us.

My propensity to laze could stem from growing up with a mother who rarely made it through an episode of Crossroads before her head flopped on one side and she was out for the count before the credits of the first commercial break.  Her mother before her was a prolific afternoon cat napper.  If the ability to relax and switch off is ingrained in us from our family upbringing, then this has significant implications for our children’s future health and happiness.

My stuff always gets done, mostly on time.  People generally see me as a relatively functional and efficient being.  I just do not need to fill every waking hour with activity.  I strongly believe that children need the same, otherwise they grow up adopting the exhausting cycle of inane action that ultimately can be injurious to health.  Ancient Chinese Theory has long recognised the requirement for rest, inaction, calm and recharging.  They even allocated a whole season to it!  Winter.  What have we gone and done?  Plonked a ruddy great month-long festival of over-consumption and consumerist hassle right in the middle of it.  (Christmas).

A very good friend has a wonderful concept that centres on the fact that for every task or job that needs doing there is an ‘anti-task’ reason for not doing it.  This, he argues, brings balance to the universe.  I like this idea.  A lot.

Now I’m really not advocating a sloth-like existence.  I am advocating making time, regularly, to doing nowt.  You can dress it up as meditation if you need to but if you are to embrace the concept wholeheartedly, I think you should go public with it.  I do.  For example:

People regularly ask me “Are you busy?”  (To date, I have no clue why I get asked this question so many times.  Is it a regional thing, does it happen to you?)

I answer “No”.  That seems to floor the questioner!

So, my advice to you is stop reading this, give your mind a rest and go do nothing.

Should you choose to blatantly ignore this, please try the following, with my best wishes.

  • Schedule time to do nothing in your diary or calendar.
  • Delegate more, let others take the reins and relinquish some control.
  • Say ‘No’ to people.
  • Communicate your wishes to friends and family that you are turning down the volume on your activity levels for a while.
  • If you find it difficult to stop and rest, try going half speed for a while.
  • The art of nothing comes from within! Calming your mind first is essential.  Try using a relaxation app to begin your ‘chill’.
  • Avoid the phone.
  • Do not answer the door.
  • Be mindful of the possessions you bring into your home. Are they high maintenance?
  • Increase activity levels in Spring when you ‘feel’ the sap rising and action becomes more natural and effortless.
  • Willfully leave some jobs undone and ENJOY the rebellion – I double dare you!
  • Keep your eye on those competitive tendencies and let those activity addicts you know fester in their own manic miasma.
  • When you are active, do everything in your power to be effective; make lists, be strategic, ask for help, avoid time wasters and procrastination.
  • If you feel tired, see it as an early warning system and act on it.

Good luck!

To read more about Alex Lochhead click here

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