Why NOT Being Busy Can Be Good For You

Helen Edwards Australian Writer and Blogger

Do you rush through life, filling it up with tasks, to do lists, and all of the things you want to achieve? When is the last time, in response to the question, ‘how are you?’, that you replied, ‘oh you know, nothing much happening, just taking every day as it comes’?

More often than not, when someone asks how we are these days, we reply with, ‘busy!’

But, NOT being busy can be so very good for you.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you are not busy, then you might be seen as lazy; that you will fall out of things and end up behind everyone else. Life moves faster than the speed of light, with so much information thrown at us every day. Social media connects you to every waking and sleeping moment of your friends, strangers, celebrities, cute animals, and all that is happening in the world – both good and bad. Many people who say they are overly busy, all of the time, have booked themselves into all sorts of activities and jobs, and their kids are also scheduled to the hilt, with no free time to simply hang about, or kick a ball in the backyard.

But being busy does not make you a better person. In fact, it can make you achieve less of what you are capable of. In order to be happy and successful, (as well as healthy), you need to fill yourself up with energy, through quiet, peaceful, unscheduled time. You need to rest in the shade, give yourself some TLC, and bank your relaxation time. This will help your mind and body, when you are under stress. In fact, you need both stress (positive stress, such as excitement and energy for the things you are passionate about, the things that get you up and active), to be in balance with rest and relaxation. They need to be working in synch, in order to stay healthy.

Being busy is great on some levels, and we all need something to do in our lives, but if you are running around like a headless chicken, with too many tasks on your list, it is likely you will end up less productive, burned out, and dissatisfied with life. Anything you do to activate the relaxation side of your autonomic nervous system, will help. This might include exercise, meditation, walking in nature, listening to music, swimming, reading, writing, gardening, craft, art, building something, cooking, chatting with friends. Anything that engages you in calming down your nervous system, will ultimately make you happier and healthier, and more productive.

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Here are 5 Reasons Why Not Being Busy Can Be Good For You

1. It allows time to make choices

We all think, worry, daydream, plot and plan. A large amount of your thinking time is dedicated to remembering all of the things you have to do on a practical level – such as grab milk on the way home – right through to the big picture dreams and aspirations of life. You may have hundreds of ideas, but only a small fraction of them are likely to be worth pursuing. You may also have lots of versions of an idea, before it really comes to life. I am all for jumping in and just going for something, and this is often my approach in business and in life. Failure is an important part of learning. However, for a truly remarkable idea to work, it needs time to develop, like a good wine. Even if you take the leap first, taking time to then let the idea settle and evolve, is important.


2. It broadens your horizons

Having lots of little things on your to do list and ticking them off, can feel like you are achieving something, but what are your really achieving? It is a bit like housework – you set out on a Saturday with a list of jobs, get them all done and feel great for a few hours, and then the kids and the cats trash the house again, and you are back to square one. Taking some slow time allows the bigger picture ideas to breathe and focuses your mind, so it is razor sharp when you are ready to get busy again.

3. It fills up your creativity and grows ideas

Tim Kreider in The New York Times, says that

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.”

You need idle time, daydreaming time, moments to simply be. You need to allow your creative juices to flow. Your brain needs time without great forced activity. I recently saw something on the ABC that said children need daydreaming time to learn in school, and that this is perhaps the most important part of learning. And in an article on Mind Shift, they state that, ‘the ability to become absorbed in our own thoughts is linked to our ability to focus intently on the world outside.’

4. It reminds you about what really matters

Stopping to smell the roses is not just healthy for your brain; it allows you time to remember all of the things that really matter in your life – the people, pleasures, and the little things. Taking an hour for lunch, instead of eating at your desk, and heading out for a walk in the park, meeting your partner for a slow lunch, reading your favourite novel, or going to the pool for a swim, will recharge your brain, refresh your body and allow you time away from busy, ultimately making your work time more productive. You have time to notice the trees, the sunshine, the birds and the people around you. It enables you to reflect on your life and notice all of the small things that make it wonderful. It can be an antidote to the negativity that abounds in the world right now. Hug a tree instead of sitting and thinking about what you need to do next.

5. It balances your life

Do you ever get the feeling that things are just not right? A general sense of anxiety and high stress can sit right on your shoulder all of the time, like a little grey cloud of worry. You may not even be able to pinpoint what it is about – it is just there. If you can never let go, set the laptop away, click off social media, and spend some time in real life with loved ones, read a book in the sunshine, potter in the garden, or simply sit still, this worry can take a stronger hold, and can be hard to shake. Try taking 15 minutes during the day to practice some mindfulness, breathe in and out, take long slow breaths, awaken all of your senses to your present, non busy moment, and separate from the idea that life is all about a race to the end.

I am sure when you are ready to leave this world, you will be remembering that long slow walk in the sunshine with your family, the time you all laughed so hard you got stomach ache, the holiday on the beach when the sunset was so glorious it made you cry, the weekend that you made pancakes together and stacked them so high you couldn’t bite into them, and the time you played an hilarious game of Uno at your beach shack – and not the times you ticked off the 475 items on your to do list.

Most importantly, taking regular time to be a human being and not always a human doing, will increase your happiness, keep you healthy, and enhance your experience of life – and who doesn’t want those things on their to do list?

Do you feel like life is all too busy? Do you take time out from acting like a human doing, to become a human being? I would love to hear so drop me a comment below
Helen xx

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