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Something that feels a lot like doing nothing can be so transcendent that it has the power to bring creativity to the surface, boost productivity and help to decrease anxiety.

Just ask the Dutch, who call this intentional nothingness “niksen,” and just so happen to be among the happiest people on Earth.

Doing nothing with purpose – or with no purpose at all – enables us to step back from whatever we’re doing to just let everything be as is without actively participating in it.

But don’t confuse niksen with mindfulness; think of it as a short period of mindless relaxation. Unlike meditation, niksen removes the extraneous effort of observing your thoughts or letting them go. You’re just being, explains Netherlands-based niksen expert Olga Mecking.

  1. Niksen enhances creativity
    Ideally, practicing niksen and allowing your brain to wander can enhance creativity because it clears away space otherwise used for rumination. The energy that the mind uses to focus on doing something is let loose, giving us room to tackle our work with a calmer, less judgmental approach.
  2. Niksen boosts productivity
    Because niksen allows us to take a step back from whatever we are doing without being an active participant, it may seem counterintuitive to expect the practice to benefit your productivity. But similar to the increased spike in creativity, we have the power to be more productive when extra brain space becomes available in the void of focusing.
  3. Niksen can help with anxiety
    While not a mindfulness practice in the traditional sense, niksen is attuned to mindfulness. For people who struggle with mindfulness activities such as focusing on breath and pushing out thoughts, the anti-mindfulness mindfulness trend of niksen can help to reduce their symptoms of anxiety.

How to turn doing nothing into something amazing

Niksen involves no steps, which paradoxically can be another challenge of this deceptively simple practice. Without an algorithm, you have to keep trying until eventually you just naturally relax into it. Start by staring out a window if you’re not sure where to begin. Let your thoughts go where they will. If you really need to put a framework around it, therapists suggest writing down your thoughts about how you feel after practicing niksen for a few weeks.

It sounds easy, but if you haven’t allowed yourself to just be – no guidance, no goal, no instructions – niksen definitely takes some getting used to. But the more you practice, the more you’ll realize that your world doesn’t end because you’re not doing anything in that moment. Try pushing through the initial discomfort that doing nothing implies laziness or deficiency.

After all, your mental health deserves all the niksen it can get.

Envisage wants to enhance your social well-being, so we’re offering resources such as our Wellness Education for Long-Term Living (WELL) program and partnership with Masterpiece. To demonstrate how our WELL program works, we invite you to bring a guest to our next upcoming virtual or in-person social event. You can register yourself and a friend or family member here to attend.

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