Niksen is the concept of doing nothing for your own good that comes from the Netherlands

·3-min read
Why don't we start practising niksen for more serenity?

What if, in order to be well, it was enough... to do nothing? Wait, do nothing ?! In a hectic world, where productivity and organization are extolled, the idea may seem preposterous. And yet, Niksen is good for our morale and our mental health.

The alarm clock rings, and the day's tasks begin to stretch ahead of us: social network checks, children, coffee, work, exercise, home, bath and finally sleep. Stress, multitasking, loss of sleep, burnout, not to mention the lockdowns that have finally obliterated any boundaries between personal and professional life that existed in the past. It's hard to find a minute for yourself when you're already struggling to get through the day. So finding time to do nothing can seem as insurmountable as climbing Everest.

Among the large variety of approaches and philosophies intended to improve one's well-being, you're probably already familiar with hygge from Denmark, the Swedish concept of lagom or the method of decluttering queen Marie Kondo who focuses on what "sparks joy." Less known, but no less interesting, niksen is to the Netherlands what the dolce vita is to Italy, albeit more on the side of minimalism and less on the side of pancetta. Niksen literally translates as "doing nothing." But beware, it is not a question of mastering the art of lazing around, but rather about taking time to disconnect and enjoy life without guilt, negative thoughts or stress.

The benefits of idleness

Olga Mecking, journalist and author of "Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing" (Little, Brown/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ), has taken a serious look at the issue. She herself was living a life at 100km per hour, and was skeptical about well-being trends. But then Mecking, who is also a mother, discovered niksen, and it revolutionized her life. In her book, the author describes her journey and how idleness can benefit our health, efficiency and creativity. But be aware that it's not about adopting the concept as just the latest fashionable path to reach nirvana, but rather as a potential aid to help find the way to true peace and serenity.

How can we 'do nothing?'

Mecking describes niksen as a desire for simplicity and minimalism. So you don't need to revolutionize your life to practice it. The goal is to take about ten minutes a day, for yourself, to relax, unwind, and reach a state of tranquility. Even if it may seem contradictory, you should leave a slot for it in your agenda. The author also specifies that there are as many ways to practice niksen as there are people.

Taking time off can be beneficial, for example, when you have a difficult decision to make. Closely related to mindfulness or meditation, this rest time for your brain during a situation clouded in uncertainty can help you refocus and look at your problem from a different perspective. More generally, niksen advocates the absence of pressure: no, you don't necessarily have to read that pile of books that you see have been seeing out of the corner of your eye for a year, or tidy up that closet, or even make your bed.

So, when can we start doing nothing?