13 Secret Benefits of Doing Absolutely Nothing
Quality "me time" can be the best medicine around.
Too often these days it can feel like you barely have a second to yourself. Even when you think you're taking a break from the hustle and bustle, thanks to social media and our all-hours news culture, you're rarely truly tuning out the world around you in full. Work, relationships, kids, commitments, notifications… it all adds up to create a tiresome mosaic of constant stimulation. Yes, life can be absolutely exhausting. Which is why, every so often, you should steal a moment to yourself—entirely to yourself.
Some quality "me time," even if it's just an hour or two a week, has been shown to enhance relationships, and aid in prioritizing responsibilities and clarifying lofty ambitions, like life goals and overall direction. It's also beneficial physiologically, improving sleep quality and dialing back feelings of stress. But that's not all! Herein, we've rounded up the benefits of doing nothing but just keeping yourself company. They're sure to inspire you to schedule some "me time" in no time.
It bolsters mental strength.
Most people get antsy or nervous when tasked with being alone for a long amount of time. In fact, a 2014 study from the University of Virginia showed that most people would rather shock themselves than spend time alone with their thoughts. However, it's well worth it to force yourself to spend some time doing nothing but processing what you're thinking and feeling. As psychotherapist and mental strength trainer Amy Morin noted in an article for Psychology Today, "mentally strong people take time to be alone with their thoughts."
It makes you more compassionate.
Taking time away from distractions can boost empathy and compassion. That's because sessions in solitude help you better understand the experiences and plights of others, allowing you to delve deeper into your compassionate side with real sincerity. "The long, difficult discipline of solitude can, and sometimes does, yield something beautiful and mysterious—a human life clarified, deepened, capable of a pure expression of compassion," notes Loyola Marymount University professor Douglas E. Christie in a 2006 paper.
And, as psychologist Joan Cook suggests in an article for The Hill, you can think of doing nothing as your very own adult time out. "We give our kids a time out to reconstitute and return to social interactions in a better state," she notes. "Adults need their alone time to do the same."
It makes you better able to cope with change and unexpected circumstances.
If you want to become more accepting of the world and its unpredictability, then you should start getting into the habit of spending more time doing nothing. When researchers from the HSE International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation surveyed about 200 students in 2018, they found that those who viewed solitude as something positive were more mature and better able to cope with the world's complexities and unpredictable circumstances.
It helps you feel well-rested.
One 2016 survey of more than 18,000 people published in the book The Restless Compendium found that doing nothing can be a good way to recharge and make yourself feel well-rested. The participants in the research were asked about a wide range of activities and were told to note the ones that made them feel most rested. "Spending time on my own" was one of the top choices.
It makes you happier.
Want to get happy? Set aside some time to be alone without distractions. A study published in the British Journal of Psychology in 2016 tracked more than 15,000 adults and found that "individuals experience lower life satisfaction with more frequent socialization with friends." Similarly, being alone had the biggest overall positive effect on intelligent individuals.
It increases productivity.
The improved concentration that solitude brings often translates afterward into boosted productivity. Once you've had time to relax and recharge, you'll find that returning to your responsibilities feels like a walk in the park. As psychologist Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter explained to PsychAlive, "you are better able to concentrate, which will help you get more work done in a shorter amount of time."
It can inspire creativity.
It may seem counterintuitive, but taking some time to yourself to sit back, relax, and do virtually nothing can actually get your creative juices flowing. One 2017 study from the University of Buffalo found that when subjects withdrew from society simply for the sake of spending time alone, they ended up seeing a boost in creativity.
It encourages problem-solving.
Sometimes when grappling with a particularly thorny problem at work or when trying to figure out a way to solve a quandary in your personal life, the constant din of distractions from other people and digital devices can keep the solution at bay. Taking time to do nothing and letting your brain mull over the problem might be just what you need to solve your dilemmas.
It builds self-reliance.
When you are surrounded by other people for a large part of your day, relying on them for advice, opinions, and assistance can lull you into a kind of dependency that keeps you from being self-reliant. But spending time with yourself doing nothing can give you the assurance that you're a totally capable and self-confident human being who just needs some "me time" to get through life's challenges.
It reboots your brain.
If you are always trying to impress people or are constantly socializing, then your brain will never have time to fully relax and recharge. Indulging in alone time with no distractions or social, professional, or familial demands allows your brain to clear itself and focus on resting and unwinding the multiple threads that make up your daily life.
It improves concentration.
Distractions and interruptions are constantly being thrown at you throughout the day, from the daily barrage of emails to requests from your kids. When you set aside some alone time though, all you have to concentrate on is whatever's in front of you, whether that's a good book or just the opportunity to clear your mind.
It encourages deep thinking.
The continuous churning of thoughts about simple everyday responsibilities constantly pinging through your brain can be overwhelming. Allotting some time to being alone with those thoughts and sorting through them can help your brain brush aside the barrage of baloney and let you think deeply.
It squashes stress.
Actively choosing to spend time alone and doing absolutely nothing shuts off the parts of the brain that promote heightened awareness, which can help lower stress, according to researchers from the University of Rochester. Upon conducting four different studies in 2017 on the effects of seclusion, they concluded that "people can use solitude, or other variations on being alone, to regulate their affective states." And if you need help figuring out how to do nothing, check out these 20 Genius Ways to Kill Time without a Smartphone.
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