How to Stop and Do Nothing (and Why it's Important for Our Health and Wellbeing)
By Sally Lever
One of the prerequisites for downshifting and leading a more sustainable life is for us to slow down. According to Jonathan Porritt, “Speed is the enemy of sustainable living”. When we opt for speed, then we tend to prioritise convenience over and above sustainability and this inevitably results in our consuming more and caring less about our personal wellbeing and that of the planet. What I’m going to suggest in this article is that we also need to stop altogether from time to time. Even if you have not yet decided to step off the treadmill, both slowing down and doing nothing are habits we can cultivate right away and from which we can very quickly start to derive benefit.
What do I mean by doing nothing? I’m talking about us finding a way to extricate ourselves from everyday activity, responsibilities, concerns and the quest for pleasure. Doing nothing means finding somewhere quiet to just “be”. It involves relaxing, quietening the mind and taking some time away from everything else in our lives.
Importance for our Wellbeing
We can improve our health and wellbeing in four main ways when we cultivate ways of doing nothing:
1. It helps us get things in perspective and focus on what’s important. It can be especially useful at those moments when we feel overwhelmed by what’s happening in our lives. So, it helps us achieve peace and clarity.
2. We gain easier access to our intuition. This is a very important and often underused faculty of the mind. To find out more about how intuition benefits us, see my article “Intuition and Sustainablility.”
3. There are many physical benefits. It can relieve the symptoms of heart disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue states, insomnia suppressed immunity, anxiety and depression.
4. It can affect our attitude to the rest of our lives in a positive way through our becoming more aware and considerate in our actions.
How do we do it?
We need to decide on a form of relaxation or spiritual practice which will cause us to stop and do nothing plus help us get in touch with our intuition, our heart and our higher selves. This can be quite a personal choice.
Here are some examples of relaxation techniques:
- a gentle walk or sitting in nature
- lying down somewhere quiet where we will not be disturbed (but without falling asleep!)
- visualisation, guided or self-created.
And these are examples of spiritual practices:
- T’ai chi or Qi Gong
Each of us can find our own way of doing nothing and I encourage my clients to establish their own method by considering four things:
What they enjoy,
What they are motivated to continue with, whatever the pressures of everyday life,
What they find beneficial,
What they are committed to making a priority in their lives.
For many, meditation is an easy method to master and to fit into busy lifestyles. Also it is a technique that seems to appeal equally to those who have a religious or spiritual leaning and those who don’t. (If this is something that you’ve not tried before and you would like to learn how to meditate, contact me for an information sheet on how to start meditating.)
How do we know that it’s working?
When we achieve a state of peaceful existence, even if only for fleeting moments to begin with, this way of being begins to pervade other aspects of our lives. We know that it’s working when we:
- are more patient and tolerant with loved ones
- make smarter decisions in the workplace
- have a greater ability to listen to others
- have a greater capacity for love and compassion for others
- have a greater capacity for love and compassion for ourselves
- sleep better
- succumb to illness less frequently or recover from illness more readily
These are some of the signs that stopping and doing nothing is beginning to be of benefit to us. I hope that, if you’re not already cultivating this habit, you will be encouraged to give it a try.
Suggested Further Reading
“Peace is Every Step” – Thich Nhat Hahn (Application of stillness and awareness in everyday life).
How Meditation Heals - Eric Harrison.
The Miracle of Mindfulness – Thich Nhat Hahn.
The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle (how to live consciously)
© Sally Lever 2006 www.sallylever.co.uk
Sally Lever is a Sustainable Living Coach who specializes in inspiring and supporting those who are downshifting or otherwise moving towards a more sustainable way of life. She offers one-to-one coaching, teleclasses in “How to step off the Treadmill” and a free email newsletter.
This article was posted by Sally Lever