By now, you’re probably well-familiarized with hygge, the Danish concept of coziness. But now we’re focusing on a different international lifestyle habit, niksen. Roughly translated, niksen is a Dutch verb for “the art of doing nothing.” It’s a stress-reducing practice from the Netherlands that literally includes doing nothing. Sounds simple enough, right? But how is niksen different from the simple concept of rest? It’s all about the Nordic mindset.
If you’re anything like us, doing “nothing” is a radical notion. We’re all so busy, all of the time. In fact, our world and generation tends to thrive on glamorizing being busy. We always are on the go. We always have one more thing to check off of our to-do list. Work-life balance? Never heard of her. And I think we’re all pretty familiar with where this leads…the dreaded “b” word – burnout. Generally speaking, our culture does not promote sitting still, and that can have overarching consequences for our mental health, wellbeing, productivity and other areas of our lives. And goodness knows technology doesn’t make it any easier. We carry our smartphones with us at all hours and it makes it almost impossible to truly unplug and embrace idleness. Our brains are actually being rewired because we’re losing our ability to sit still and we’re forcing ourselves to stay busy at all times.
Instead of constantly occupying your mind with what you need to do next or bouncing from one task to another, niksen is the practice of slowing it all down. And it’s beneficial to your health in so many ways. It’s a welcome reprieve from societal expectations about work and productivity. The overarching belief that if you’re not productive, you’re lazy.
And because niksen allows your brain to slow down, you’ll find that taking a breather every once and a while has stress-reducing benefits. We also know that the act of doing nothing and being “bored” can boost your creativity as well. The act of being still and slowing down allows your mind to wander and can help you be more creative and be a more effective problem solver.
We love the appeal of hygge because it’s all about comfort. But niksen is more similar to mindfulness. They aren’t exactly the same, because mindfulness generally means you are staying in the moment and aware of your surroundings. Niksen is about letting it all go. Let yourself do nothing. Let your mind go where it wants without guilt or expectations. Again, it’s not about laziness. It’s about taking a moment to thoroughly enjoy life’s pauses. Relinquish control and just let yourself be.
So is it really that simple? Yes, it is! Think of it as simply sitting in a chair and looking out the window. But when is the last time we did that? Because it’s not in our nature. When you’re used to constantly moving or doing, the act of sitting still and doing nothing can feel unnatural. Push through your discomfort. Start in small increments and build up. You can use this resource to help get you started. Allow your mind to wander in any way it wants, which allows us to be imaginative and creative.
Bringing these intentional, quiet moments into your daily routine will help you appreciate the art of doing deliciously nothing.