Healthy Living: The value of doing nothing

The central theme in writing this column, and in my life, is finding ways to accumulate the mental tools and physical behaviours on the path toward mental, then spiritual and bodily wellness.

The main ingredient, if I had to choose just one, would be summarized in the word “connection.”

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Connection with people in places like the library or recreation complex where we can expand social networks; connection with a jogging or walking buddy because exercising in a social environment will produce more endorphins, serotonin and neurochemical rewards; and reconnection with family or friends who have been estranged in an effort to feel whole in mind and spirit.

However, another big word or theme in recovery from addiction, or just trying to find meaning or happiness is “balance.”

Too much of any one thing will contribute to imbalance and, over time, discontentment (this includes New York-style cheesecake with caramel drizzle, believe it or not).

To counterbalance the feeling of being over submerged in our social and work life, we might need a complete interruption from it, giving ourselves some time to do nothing and seeing the value in it.

There are large overall health benefits in silently sitting beside your favourite lake away from the incessant chatter of everyday life and just embracing the stillness.

Slumping comfortably in a chair listening to the distant hum of a passing floatplane, or just watching the translucent green alder leaves sway while the August sun turns the lake into field of sparkling diamonds, is a positive move toward a healthy balance.

Being temporarily off the grid, and conveniently just outside cell reception, shouldn’t be thought of as avoidance from responsibilities or procrastination. It can be a search for balance and, possibly, connection to something deeper within yourself. Maybe, something spiritual.

Let the emails, messages and texts go completely unanswered for a bit of time. The technological reality of being “out of cell range” is a pretty solid excuse. Also, “I know, I can’t believe I forgot my phone charger, either,” can be a useful phrase when re-emerging from your self-imposed exile.  

However, to be more serious, we don’t need to justify or have guilt around taking some time to do nothing. It’s an empowering choice for yourself and quality of life.

Being healthily away from the stress-related over-connectivity of technology driven modern life might be more effective than prescribed medicine for body and mental stress.

British author A.A. Milne, who famously wrote the Winnie the Pooh books, was quoted as saying,“Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering.”

This timeless advice was written in the early part of the 20th century but seems more relevant in today’s speedy culture of immediate gratification.

As life becomes increasingly like a rushing whitewater river of responsibilities and information, pushing and pulling relentlessly, a decision to spend a few days doing nothing might be an invaluable choice toward a balanced healthy mind and spirit.

Robert Skender is a Powell River freelance writer and health commentator.

Copyright © Powell River Peak


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