Niksen: The Art of Doing Nothing
In a 2018 survey of 1000 full-time US professionals, 77% of respondents said they have experienced employee burnout at their current job.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently classified burnout as an occupational phenomenon, reinforcing the negative impact of workplace stress.
The cost of burnout can even be deadly, as seen in a Stanford University study of hospitals across the United States, which found that physician burnout was associated with major medical errors.
Burnout is a very real part of our lives, but how can we overcome it?
Introducing what the Dutch call niksen.
What is niksen?
The practice promotes taking conscious time to simply do nothing.
When most of daily life is consumed by the need to maximize productivity, to make the most of our time, the constant stress of this can be daunting. Hence, taking time to be idle might require some mental adjustment as the results of this cannot be quantified or measured.
Instead, we simply feel lighter, less cluttered mentally, and healthier.
Niksen, a Dutch word, is also a quintessentially Dutch concept because it contradicts the cultural bias against being idle, although the idea of taking breaks and doing nothing is definitely welcome in most other countries.
Why should I practice niksen?
As long as you find yourself too caught up in the culture of busy-ness, only engaging in goal-oriented activities, you might benefit from giving niksen a try.
Properly managing stress can have a myriad of positive impacts on your health.
These are some benefits that niksen can have on your life:
-It makes you more creative
Letting your mind wander can lead to stumbling upon creative alternatives or solutions. You are more likely to get creative when the mind searches for its own stimulation, which happens when you’re bored.
-It makes you better at problem-solving
Practicing niksen can lift you from overwhelming clouds of thoughts and let you envision things more clearly. Better organized thoughts can pave the way for more effectively solving problems.
-It improves productivity
Prioritizing and knowing when to practice niksen can, ironically, make you more productive. Be aware of how your mind works and notice when your attention starts to drift from the task at hand. That’s when you should do niksen, instead of forcing your mind to work overtime.
-Reduced stress can lead to improved heart health
Stress leads to high blood pressure and behaviors that increase the risk of heart disease, like overeating junk food, physical inactivity, smoking, and drinking alcohol.
Practicing niksen and taking breaks whenever you want might ease stress and help to reduce this ripple effect, keeping you healthier for longer.
You’ve got me interested! How can I do niksen?
You can practice niksen basically anywhere, anytime. It’s all up to you.
If you notice yourself displaying any of the 3 WHO-defined characteristics of burnout:
- Energy depletion or exhaustion;
- Increased mental distance from your job, or work-related negativism or cynicism
- Reduced professional efficacy
You should probably take a step back from stress-inducing activities and situations.
To do niksen, you can:
-Gaze out of a window at the beautiful scenery
-Watch a sunrise or a sunset
-Listen to music
-Simply sit still
-Go for a leisurely walk
And the list goes on!
It’s important to be unapologetic about taking a break; don’t think of niksen as being lazy, but as an important life skill. Approach it like starting a new workout routine and know that it might take time to get used to.
Make it easier by distancing yourself from distractions by keeping items like your phone or laptop in a drawer or a different room.
Niksen is just one of many ways you can deal with stress. What matters is that you successfully manage work-related stress and not let it negatively affect your health.
If niksen doesn’t work for you, that’s ok. There’s something out there for everyone, just do what feels right for you!
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