”Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.” —Zen Proverb —Tani Rose Kageyama
(Excerpt from Lisa’s new book – Tech-Free Vacations for Your Busy Life)
There is a way of living in Italy called dolce far niente, or “the sweetness of doing nothing.” It is a philosophy permeated into Italian culture and in stark contrast with North American culture.
In North America, there is the concept that if we spend our spare time doing absolutely nothing, then we are considered lazy people. However, this is the exact reason that dolce far niente needs to be added to our way of living because we have a challenge slowing down or not accounting for our time. We often feel the need to be productive at all times.
We’ve learned to grow up with a reward system, which started when we first attended elementary school, and we were rewarded when we completed assignments and projects. This concept continued through high school and into our work lives.
This constant feeling of having to “be busy” takes its toll on our mental and physical state. We often start our day with a list of to-dos, and this continues all day long. And we begin the next day the same way. It can feel a bit like Groundhog Day, the movie where the main character wakes up and each day is the same.
I’ve had moments when I feel like I’m having déjà vu, when I question if I’ve done the same actions in the same order. Everything feels like a time loop. During these exhausting days, we need to calm down, relax, and take a moment for ourselves and even practice doing nothing.
There’s a movie that sums up the Italian concept of the sweetness of doing nothing, and it’s called Eat, Pray, Love (2010). The main character talks about her disappointment in herself because she’s spent three weeks in Rome learning Italian and eating. Her Italian friends mention she doesn’t know how to enjoy herself. She needs to learn dolce far niente and do nothing like the Italians, who say they are masters of it.
It may seem like a luxury to take time and do nothing, but it’s essential to your physical and mental health. If you’re busy most of the time, you need moments to rest and recharge. Your “do-nothing moments” can be found in doing what you love or having a glass of wine outdoors at the end of a workday. The choice is yours.
You don’t have to wait for the carefree days of warm summers to take a do-nothing moment or have a non-scheduled day. Build some time into your schedule by not overbooking your day.
Since I create and facilitate webinars and workshops, write, coach, and need to stay positive and energetic for clients, I practice embracing the Italian concept of doing nothing by taking time to spend in nature. Nature is my way to de-stress, and in the spring and summer, I stretch out in my canvas hammock, shaded under a cherry and apple tree. I can easily spend an hour resting, drinking a glass of wine, reading, and listening to the sounds of birds. This downtime has been the key to improving my mental health and happiness—it is more important than you realize.
TIME: For this escape, dedicate an afternoon to a whole day for this adventure. Your time is not to be used to complete tasks or projects—this is relaxing, thinking, creative thought, or “spacing out” to “just be.”
SUPPLIES: You won’t need supplies to enjoy relaxing and just doing nothing; that is the beauty of practicing this mini-vacation.
When you finally have a moment or a day to do nothing, revel in it and enjoy every moment. Let your mood and interests dictate what you want to do, and don’t be afraid of getting bored.
You might take a walk, read a novel, start writing your long-planned book, rearrange furniture, sleep in, play an instrument, exercise, or sit and daydream. There is magic in unplanned moments. Sometimes, the best ideas or answers to unsolved challenges bubble up when we least expect them to. When you finally have a moment or a day to do nothing, revel in it and enjoy every moment.