How to reduce stress by doing nothing

How to Practice the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing

It may come as no surprise that chronic stress is on the rise. According to a 2019 global poll, Americans were among the most stressed people in the world. However, with the additional stressors brought on by the pandemic stress and burnout are at an all time high. The most recent survey by the American Psychological Association, 2020 Stress in America™ survey, found that 78% of adults reported that the pandemic was a significant source of stress in their life, with 67% stating they have experienced increased stress over the course of the pandemic.

It’s no wonder that more people are seeking innovative ways to help manage their stress. One mindfulness trend that should not be forgotten is the Dutch concept known as niksen, or simply put, the art of doing nothing.


What Exactly is Niksen?

According to an interview in Time magazine, Carolien Hamming, the managing director of CSR Centrum, a coaching center in the Netherlands that helps clients manage stress, says that niksen “literally means to do nothing, to be idle or do something without any use.” While the phrase niksen has been in the Dutch vocabulary for hundreds of years, it has historically been dismissed as laziness and unproductive. However, as stress levels and burnout began to increase rapidly, this practice has gained recognition and popularity around the world as a new strategy to reduce stress.


How to Practice Niksen

Unlike other stress management techniques such as meditation or breathwork, there is no correct way to practice niksen – as long as it is done without intention or purpose. This may seem straightforward enough, however, it is important to highlight that while mindlessly watching TV or scrolling through social media may seem like “doing nothing,” these activities all entail action of some sort – like thinking about what on the screen in front of you – and thus are not classified as niksen.

Some good examples of niksen include letting your mind wander as you stare out a window, listening to music, or simply sitting in a chair daydreaming. Semi-automatic activity, such as knitting or washing the dishes, can also be niksen – as long as you do it without thinking about the immediate task in front of you.

The great thing about niksen is, since there is no one-size-fits-all approach, you can find out what ways to inspire idleness work best for you! You can also do it anywhere: at home, work, in a coffee shop or a library. Simply stop what you are doing and let your mind wander for a bit.


The Potential Benefits of Niksen

Niksen has largely been embraced as a way to help combat our increasingly busy and stressful lives – providing our minds with a much needed break. Allowing our minds and bodies to take a break also comes with some welcome benefits, both mentally and physically.

Reduce Stress and Burnout

Practicing niksen can help to reduce stress and burnout by allowing you to slow down and take regular breaks from work. Taking a moment to pause and reflect can help improve levels of perceived stress, mood and overall well-being, which in turn can help to reduce the health risks associated with chronic stress.

Improve Productivity, Creativity, and Problem Solving Skills

While it may seem counterintuitive, allowing your mind to wander can actually help to boost productivity, creativity and problem solving skills.

One study found that daydreaming while we are bored may lead to more creative thinking and innovative problem-solving. Another study found that allowing your mind to wander while doing mindless tasks can make it easier to come up with more creative solutions to problems, even those pesky and seemingly unsolvable problems.

With respect to being more productive, taking a break can also help to give your mind, and your body, the rest it needs to help you complete your tasks in the long run.


Practice Niksen with MindBreaks™

Now more than ever, people are in need of regular breaks to help them manage mounting stress and burnout. While setting aside time in your day to practice niksen can help you disconnect, it may be difficult to know where to start.
Delos’ mindfulness offering, the MindBreaks app, can help you incorporate niksen into your daily routine. MindBreaks offers short, restorative sessions with biophilic sounds for immersive experiences that are perfect to listen to as you daydream. Explore MindBreaks today and press pause on the stresses of life, allowing your mind and body to recharge by giving yourself a few moments of escapism.