Forget new year-new you, fad diets and crazy exercise routines – January should be a time for resetting after the busy festive season and preparing ourselves for the onslaught of a new year.
Doing nothing is something we all need to do more of. Switching off in this way allows us to forget about the outside world – where we’re accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – and instead allow ourselves to enjoy a moment of calm, whilst enabling us to consider what’s really important to us.
In fact, far from making you lazy and unproductive, enjoying small pockets of ‘nothingness’ can boost creativity, enables you to better connect with your emotions and ‘gut’ feelings, and can even help you to be kinder. Doing nothing’ doesn’t have to be taken literally; think of all the everyday moments of joy that we sacrifice when we’re busy, like reading to the kids, cooking a meal for loved ones or even the simple joy of a bubble bath at the end of the day.
So instead of giving in to the relentlessness of modern life, carve out time for yourself to enjoy the sweetness of ‘gjör ingenting’ (do nothing).
How do you spend your time?
It’s important to consider how you currently spend your time. Time is sacred and something most of us feel we are lacking. However, when you really stop to think carefully about how you’re spending your day, you’ll likely find pockets of time you didn’t even realise you had.
When you add up all the times you’ve allowed yourself to be distracted by something on TV that you didn’t really want to watch, mindlessly scrolled social media or an online shopping site, or allowed yourself to procrastinate over chores or tasks, you’ll potentially have an hour or more each day to spare.
Get better at saying ‘no’
If you’ve ever been sucked into work emails after you’ve left the office, met a friend for drinks when you didn’t really feel up to it or sacrificed your evening to a punishing new exercise routine simply because you felt you had to – it’s January after all – then it’s time to get comfortable saying no.
Rather than spreading yourself too thin by keeping every social commitment, dedicate yourself only to activities you enjoy and that will leave you feeling fulfilled. Whether that’s catching up with friends over coffee, cooking with loved ones or simply enjoying a quiet evening complete with an early night.
Similarly, it’s important to know that you can question yourself; if you’re feeling pressure to transform yourself into a sparkly new person, ask yourself where this pressure is coming from and whether it’s a valid emotion. Do you really need to lose considerable amounts of weight in January? Do you really need to give up enjoying any chocolate and cake for the month? Do you really need to start a 10 minute a day meditation or yoga habit? Life is a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s okay to slow down and take things day by day.
And be intentional with your time, for example, if you have a spare half hour and want to read a few chapters of a book, don’t allow yourself to be distracted by anything or anyone else.
Ditch the tech
Minutes easily turn into hours when scrolling through social media, with every like and comment we receive fuelling a hit of dopamine (aka the happy hormone). While seemingly harmless, social media forces us to compare ourselves with others; whether it’s someone’s house, clothes, holidays or even picture-perfect family and friends.
So, instead of allowing yourself to be sucked into this negative cycle, unsubscribe or mute any accounts that trigger FOMO or negative emotions, and set daily limits to how long you can spend on social media in your free time.
Doing this will allow you to be more intentional with your time. For example, rather than wasting half an hour on social media rabbit holes, you could enjoy calling the folks for a catch-up, relaxing in a bubble bath, playing with the kids or just being present with a loved one.
Practise doing nothing
Sitting quietly and doing nothing doesn’t come easily, especially for our overstimulated brains and bodies that are used to being ‘always on’ and in a state of high alert for much of the day.
Simply carving out a few minutes of your day to sit and observe anything and everything going on around you – what you can see, smell and hear – is a great way to ground yourself and focus your attention on the present.
You’ll find that once you’re comfortable sitting quietly for a few minutes every day, you’re better able to define what is and isn’t important to you.
Enjoy the everyday
Savour the everyday moments of joy that you normally overlook – the smell of food as it cooks, the sound of rain on the window, the seasonal changes, the warmth of your morning cup of tea…
By slowing down, shutting out the noise of the outside world – rather than being on a relentless conveyor belt of social engagements whilst chastising yourself for your inability to transform into a brand new, better version of yourself – and instead focusing on small pockets of doing nothing, enjoying every day and the activities that truly nourish your soul, you’ll undoubtedly feel more fulfilled, calmer and happier.