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Why you need a little Niksen - the healthy art of doing nothing

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We’re not very good at doing nothing anymore. In fact, most of us wear ‘being busy’ as a badge of honour. But the Dutch concept of Niksen turns that on its head – encouraging people to embrace doing very little as a positive lifestyle choice. Is Niksen what you need now?

The case for doing nothing

Have you ever caught yourself gazing out the window and immediately felt guilty for wasting time? Or spent the afternoon lazing on the couch doing nothing, then regretted it because, well, you should have been doing something? 

Similarly, have you ever been asked, “How have you been?” and instinctively replied, “I’ve been so busy!", wearing your busy-ness as a badge of honour? 

Contrary to how it might feel at the time, did you know that doing nothing very much can actually be good to you? Maybe it’s time you introduced a little bit of Niksen into your life. 

What in the world is Niksen?

Niksen is Dutch for nothing. Or, more specifically, the art of doing nothing – without feeling guilty. 

In our Western mindset, sitting around doing very little equates to being lazy or, God forbid, procrastinating. 

But Niksen is all about just being, without any real purpose. 
That means letting your mind wander in no particular direction and embracing distractions. 

It’s almost the polar opposite of mindfulness and meditation, which teach us to clear our minds so we can be totally present in the moment. 

The idea of appreciating downtime and discovering the ‘benefits’ of boredom isn’t completely new – Niksen is just the concept neatly packaged for the 2020s (and with a catchy European name).


Why is doing nothing good for my health?

Australians are more stressed than ever, with an estimated 13 per cent of us reporting high (or very high) levels of stress in 2018 – a 12 per cent increase from 2015. 

Research  suggests that ongoing stress impacts much more than our mental wellbeing – it also contributes to us getting sick and burning out.

Fans of Niksen say that by slowing down, switching off and making time to not focus on anything in particular, we can start to counter the negative effects  of our ultra-busy lives. 

There’s another plus to practising Niksen: doing simple tasks that allow your mind to wander can boost your creative problem-solving  skills as well as spark inspiration. 

Think about all those brilliant ideas you have when you’re doing ‘no-thinking’ activities such as baking, colouring-in or falling asleep. 

How do I practise Niksen?

Giving yourself permission to do very little is not as easy as it sounds. 

For many of us – used to doing something all the time – it means shifting from a FOMO mindset (fear of missing out) to a JOMO mindset (the joy of missing out). 

Interestingly, millennials already seem to be embracing JOMO, with research showing that younger folk are opting to stay in more than ever before.