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  • Writer's pictureWorld Half Full

Busy doing nothing


Have you ever wanted to stop and put the world on hold? The Dutch have a word for doing just that: “niksen”. Niksen literally means to do nothing. As a relaxation technique, niksen is incredibly simple. You don’t have to imagine your negative thoughts are leaves being carried away downstream, or chant, breath in any particular way, nor wrap your legs twice around your neck, You just . . . stop. Sit in a chair and stare out the window, and you’re practising niksen. Niken’s not only easy to master, it’s also good for our health. Couch potatoes will be pleased to hear that idling away the time has been proved to be beneficial to our physical and mental wellbeing: it reduces stress levels while boosting the immune system. 

Carolien Hamming is managing director of a coaching centre in the Netherlands that helps clients manage stress. The important aspect of practising niksen, Hamming told, is that “it’s without purpose”. In other words, you’re not trying to achieve anything with niksen — quite the opposite. Unlike mindfulness — which is about being in the moment — niksen is more freestyle; you let your mind wander rather than focusing on a particular way of being. And there’s no one way to practice niksen, you just go with what works for you. 

But with so many of us constantly on the go, doing nothing all of a sudden isn’t as easy as it sounds. It takes a while to adapt to the notion of niksen. Hamming advises clients to grab a few niksen minutes here and there to start with, before building up to longer intervals of idleness. Ideally, Hamming recommends dedicating one evening a week to niksen. “Dare to be idle,” she says. “It’s all about allowing life to run its course, and to free us from obligations — for just a moment.”

| WATCH someone do nothing for eight hours

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