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The Benefits of Doing Nothing 

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For decades, overstimulation and abundance in many areas of life in the Western world have developed from a welcome richness into a pesky evil. We are constantly fed new information and overwhelmed with more work and more distraction.

When we do more and more we do in fact feel more productive, useful, efficient, responsive and on duty – at best, 25 hours a day. Yet is this sustainable? We may be reaching our targets, but at what cost?

If we keep finding ourselves in Catch-22 scenarios, it’s inevitable for us to become less productive and not so efficient, because we’ll be using up our energy, while we won’t have the time to recharge our batteries.

 What can we do if we have no time for anything anymore?

“Abundance is leading us to our limits,” say Herwig Kopp and Norbert Trompeter, the founders of the Association of Diversification and Novelty (ADN). They point out that we have known the rules of scarcity for thousands of years, but, as a society, we haven’t yet learned how to deal with abundance.

With backgrounds in neuroscience, art and new media, as well as leadership development, integral health and coaching, two oddballs from Austria, Herwig Kopp and Norbert Trompeter, have been pouring their creative energy into the art of idleness. In 2006, they founded the non-profit organization ADN.

They claim that the antidote to the rat race is: doing nothing, but constructively. By ‘doing nothing’, they mean a shift from outer activities to inner ones. By inner actions, they mean aiming for seemingly purposeless actions like watching the clouds, listening to the wind, smelling flowers, focusing on breathing, and being aware of what is going on in your mind. The trick is not holding onto any thoughts tightly, but instead letting it all pass you by. And of course, activities such as reading a newspaper or book, surfing the web, and pondering over problems do not count as purely inner activities, in their opinion. Idle Mans

In August 2013, Kopp and Trompeter conducted a self-experiment in which they did nothing for a quarter of their workday. Their hypothesis was that this would inspire people and make them more relaxed, focused and even more productive, which proved to be true for their eventual field study.

They documented the outcome in an online project: www.40daysofdoingnothing.com. They also offer a starter kit, where you can find the ABCs of Doing Nothing.

If you’d like to find out how idleness increases the quality of your life and your overall well-being, you can start with three simple steps:

  1. dedicate a certain amount of time (not more than 15 minutes per day to start with) to:
  2. go to a certain place. It can be a park, river, or lakeside: ideally a quiet place even if you live in a busy area. It should be somewhere you can:
  3. be in the right state of mind. You should focus on merely watching whatever is going on in your mind as well as around you, but avoid thinking too hard about anything.

Psychological and physiological studies suggest that doing nothing tunes down the nervous system, acts as anti-stress, sharpens the senses, and raises one’s awareness of one’s own body and its tensions. Idleness is also essential to help you listen to the messages of your heart and soul, which often get drowned out in the roar of mental machinery.

“We need exemplary mass-trust in ‘nothing‘, rendering it socially acceptable,” say Herwig Kopp and Norbert Trompeter. “Just as the siesta was introduced into Japanese companies because napping after lunch was making employees happier and more productive.”

“It is high time for nothing if you do not have time for anything anymore.” Herwig Kopp, head of ADN – Berlin

With their research they want to infect as many people as possible with constructive idleness, taking away the “fear of nothing” (horror vacui) which haunts our times like a ghost. To this end, they have declared 1 May (usually International Workers’ Day) to be the “Day of Constructive Idleness” as they aim at drawing awareness to off-days and their soothing effect on human psychology. They recommend reasonable quantities of Doing Nothing to be celebrated and experimented on a daily basis. Kopp and Trompeter believe that this may turn out to be the remedy for keeping us sane and healthy, in times when most of us tend to be overworked, overwhelmed and over-managed.

 

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S.E. is the Founder of Mash Stories. She has had short stories published in fiction magazines across the US and the UK. One of her stories was included in The Subtopian: Selected Stories. Her poetry book, Before Me, is published by Thought Catalog Books, New York. She is currently working on a science fiction novel called Split Watch. You can read some of her short stories and poems at http://sesever.com.

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