by Veronica Vaiti, LCSW-R
In our culture, especially the NYC Metro area culture where it tends to be all about ambition and success and striving to become or make something, the notion of sitting and vegging out and doing nothing can seem improbable, impossible and at worst lazy! I’d like to counter that thought and galvanize a movement of “Nothing-doers” to encourage people everywhere who are over-scheduled, over-stressed and overwhelmed or even people who seem to have it all “in-check” to pencil in some time to sit, chill, veg-out and perfect the art of doing nothing, seriously!
Look, coming from a self-declared frenzy junkie as myself – wife and mother of 2 small children, full-time private psychotherapy practice and recently expanded a group psychotherapy practice and new office, currently I feel as if I live my life in a state of triage. I prioritize my focus on what needs immediate attention – primarily care of family, clients, business and basic self-care – and as for the rest, I’m really very sorry but it will just have to wait. So that makes the notion of any sort of “spare time” pretty non-existent right now, but oh so necessary and if I didn’t make that time to do absolutely nothing I probably wouldn’t be able to do much of anything, that is with any success.
Perhaps I should take this time to clarify what I mean by “doing nothing.” I don’t mean sitting around picking at your nails thinking nervously about all you’re not doing (take it from me, that is really not the most productive use of time). What I’m referring to is a rejuvenating type of non-doing, non-acting, non-directed thinking, sort of like the practice of mindfulness but even less intentioned than that. What I’m talking about is just being. What is that?
Here’s an example of what I mean…after you read this next paragraph, stop reading and try what it suggests. Stop whatever it is you are doing, stop all movement, be still and take a full deep breath in and out and allow one or more of your five senses to gather all that’s there for them to notice, even if just for 5 seconds. Allow your ears and nose to let all sounds and scents respectively around them to drift in, your mouth to register the quality of taste there is now, your eyes to open and see all that is before them and your skin to actually feel whatever is touching it. Just feel, sense and notice and don’t try to do or be anything other than what your senses are showing you in this moment.
How was that for you? Feels nice right? Yeah, I know, ahhhh. Enjoy that!
Similar to a mindfulness meditation practice, by allowing yourself to do nothing but be, you are also cultivating the awareness and expansion of your senses. However the difference here is you are not purposefully trying to watch your thoughts or work on tracking them or trying to sit in a particular form or stature. You are simply allowing yourself to slow down, pause, and just be where you are as you are without trying to change a thing.
How can this type of doing nothing be beneficial? The same way our bodies need sleep to grow and function the next day, our mind and body needs waking time to be still and settle down a bit to help calm our nervous system and counter the multitude of stress hormones that are released into our system on a daily basis.
So next time you find yourself moving rapidly through all of the requirements and responsibilities of your day, take a few seconds or longer whenever possible to do nothing – just be! The payoff you will find is that a great big something can really come from doing a little nothing!
Veronica Vaiti, LCSW-R and Amir Levine, PhD, LCSW, CASAC are Co-Founders of BHAVA Therapy Groupwhich provides individual, couples, family and group therapies in Riverdale, NY and Midtown Manhattan. Visit nyctherapygrp.com to learn more.