Why it’s ok to do ‘nothing’

Well, this is nice, I thought to myself on Sunday morning. My one-year-old son and four-year-old daughter were playing happily by themselves and I was actually having an uninterrupted conversation with my husband with a hot cup of coffee in my hand. It won’t last, I thought. But it did, until tiredness descended on my son and it was nap time.

My plan for that morning had been to get out early for a jog. As I sat enjoying the happy scene in front of me I felt a pang of guilt. I should be out running by now, I thought. Does it matter? The other half of me asked. I realised it really didn’t. We had no plan for the day. I was in no rush to do anything. This was a rare occurrence in a normally hectic household.

My husband works long shifts and our days off are usually spent trying to please everyone else – making sure grandparents see the kids or planning in exciting days out. You know, those everyone on social media seem to be doing.

This weekend, we were just enjoying being a family and all the normality which comes with that. No pressure, no expectations, no plan.

Why do we need periods of downtime?

We regularly talk about the benefits of living an active lifestyle but there’s also something to be said for the occasional down time.

Doing nothing gives your brain a chance to process experiences, consolidate memories, and reinforce learning. Psychologists talk about how it increases creativity and productivity. It improves our mental health and our relationships with others.

All those weekends we spend rushing from here to there leave us with little space for good conversation with our loved ones.  All that time spent working at a computer or using other technology blocks our creativity.

Resting can sometimes be just as important as going for that run.

A shared experience

On our Monday morning Shift Zoom meeting we greeted each other with the usual, ‘how was your weekend?’

“Yeah, really good. A proper weekend of relaxing and not doing much in particular”, my colleague Ashley chipped in.

A moment of reflection later, he continued.

“Actually, that really wasn’t the case”, Ashley said. “I spent a good few hours cleaning the house, tidying the shed, clearing the garden and even a trip to Wickes. I did an impromptu Zoom call with friends on Saturday night. I took my daughter to the park both days. Set up my indoor exercise bike. Then there was the usual full roast dinner and watching two football matches. The better stuff, I think it would be considered.

“None of that is particularly out of the ordinary for a weekend. It just felt very different.”

What’s changed?

The chat moved on to why this might be the case. The restrictions of lockdown maybe?

“There was no football session to rush to Saturday morning. No pressure to have to get round to see friends and family. No desperation to get chores done with the thought of “if I don’t do it now….”. And most of all, no feeling of guilt for not doing any of it”, Ashley said.

“This lockdown obviously comes with more knowledge of what to expect, I guess. But, when I thought about it……..those jobs around the house, the unplanned walks to the park, getting my bike set up. They were all things I’d put on my Well for Winter plan a couple of months ago but had forgotten about.

“I’d allowed myself that time to write down things I wanted to do and then they kind of just happened. All without me really consciously putting much effort in.

“I don’t think all my weekends will be like that. But it felt very much like a positive reset button had been hit. I think I’ll be adding “have a ‘weekendy’ weekend”, to my plan.”

Learning to enjoy lockdown

This lockdown certainly seems to have a different feel to the last for me too. The first bringing on feelings of panic, confusion, anger and upset. The announcement of this one definitely led to a feeling of, ‘oh no, not again’. Worries about vulnerable loved one and frustration over more cancelled plans. Those Christmas events I’d felt pressured into booking because apparently, if you don’t make all your Christmas plans over the summer there’s nothing left come December.

But, that aside, I’m actually rather enjoying it. I love that I have the freedom to sometimes do absolutely nothing and still have time left over to do everything else.

I did go for that run later on – it was an off plan but on plan sort of day.

If you want to create your own Well for Winter plan you can find out more and download a template here.

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