Everyone, I would like to introduce you to my new favorite word: niksen. Roughly translated, this Dutch word means doing nothing—or, as I’m describing it, the art of listening to Truth Hurts by Lizzo on repeat without thinking about anything in particular. It’s kind of like putting your brain on low-power mode. Following in the footsteps of such mindsets like hygge and lagom, niksen is another example of a Nordic mindset we could all take a few wellness cues from. (It’s cool, here in the U.S. we have this thing called burnout. Ever heard of it?)
Doing nothing feels like a radical thing. I’ve had a to-do list for as long as I can remember. The last time I did nothing was probably around the time Kim Kardashian was Paris Hilton’s assistant. Stop, breathe, live slowly and lushly is not exactly something we’re taught. Work-life balance? I don’t know her. It’s all about the grind. Having a never-ending to-do list is pretty much a bragging right. Oh, you got four hours of sleep last night? Well I was up until 2 a.m. working on my idea for a bee farming co-working space. It’s like that scene in Mean Girls, except instead of body image we’re all trying to one-up each other with how tired we are. This mindset, that we need to be perpetually exhausted and stressed, worshipping at the altar of the hustle, in order to be successful, is why many of us—myself included—are on the midnight train to burnout.
That’s where this concept of niksen can help. It’s similar to mindfulness or meditation, but with an emphasis, again, on doing literally nothing. “Whereas mindfulness is about being present in the moment, niksen is more about carving out time to just be, even letting your mind wander rather than focusing on the details of an action,” writes Sophia Gottfriend for Time. It’s doing something without a goal in mind. The benefits of niksen are also similar to the benefits of mindfulness. Niksen allows your brain to slow down, and research shows that taking a breather every once and a while has stress-reducing benefits. Research has also found that allowing your mind to wander can help you be more creative and be a more effective problem solver. If the idea of tuning out for a few minutes sounds, well, boring… you’re not alone. But! Good news! Being bored can boost your creativity as well.
So let your mind wander, and embrace a few minutes of conscious idleness. It’s not laziness if you call it niksen!
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