Why Doing Nothing Works

I have neglected myself one too many times. I feel it as I write this post. I literally have a physical sensation of heaviness at the front of my head. And I know that if I just chose to stop and do.....well, nothing, that heaviness would be relieved slightly.

The trouble is I don't allow myself to do nothing, even when I am lucky enough to get some time alone. It is this sense that there has to be something I should, or can, be doing. There is! There is always something to be done. But if I don't stop, I am doing that thing with an underlying mood of "grrrrr". And what's more, most of the time the things on my mental to-do list don't all get done, OR they do get done and still I have a heavy, negative mood weighing over me. So why do I insist on keeping my mental treadmill switched on? Actually, quite often it feels more like a rollercoaster in there! While my hands are busy getting one of the tasks completed, my mind is already on the next one, two, three, kazillion, tasks to come. And it is so - damn - tedious.

The thing is - no one created this mental list for me. It's mine alone. I am the one who is constantly adding things to the list. I am the one who chooses to think about what is next in the day/week/year. And then, I am the one who flops down exhausted at the end of the day, STILL thinking about what I need to get done tomorrow. Now, tell me, where is there space for the heaviness to lift. Where is there time and mental energy to feel anything other than snowed under? I have left myself absolutely nothing to work with, and then the day is done. What I do have left are feelings of exhaustion, resentment that the weight of the world is on my shoulders, and a lack of a sense of identity beyond the list.

Things could have carried on in this way forever. But then, I had a lightbulb moment. I came to terms with the fact that I needed to take responsibility for these feelings I was having. Nobody else had told me that I need to fill my mind with action steps. In fact, I am sure that if a few things on my daily list got dropped, nobody but me would notice. So, I gave it a go. Starting by writing down this mental list on a piece of paper. That mental fog I was feeling started to dissipate as the words became tangible. I could look at this list and decide what was most important and where to start. Most importantly, it became much easier to focus on the one task at hand, as I was determined to complete what I had set out to do and check that box off. I have become so much more focused, and have realized that finishing one small goal well, feels so much better than doing five things in a way that brought me no joy and no sense of identity. Slowing down has meant that I have allowed my creativity to seep in to what I do. To give you an example - this blog post. Normally, I would write these posts from the heart, but my mind would not stop whirring. I would usually stop a few times during my writing to quickly go and start another task and sometimes I wouldn't even come back to my laptop. Today, I'm doing it differently and I am slowing down. I am literally speaking my words out loud as I type them, allowing no space for other responsibilities to crop up their persistent heads and beckon me back into my murky, busy, tangled mind.

Now, you might be thinking that there is no way you could cross anything off your list. But humour yourself here - set yourself the task of writing your lists down, and slowing down. Whether you need to speak out loud, or listen to music as you do your one task, find a way to drown out the rest of the noise. And then, do nothing. Take a time out. Put your phone away, close your eyes, take some deep breaths, smile. Sometimes, it helps to clear your mind first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, by practising a simple mindfulness exercise. Just a few mindful breaths can do wonders for giving yourself some clarity for the day. You do have the time. I'm talking no more than 5 minutes of your day.

A lot of my coaching clients come to me with a story of confusion, and not knowing their purpose. And I say to them that they need to spend some time getting to know themselves in order to know what they want. But if we don't give ourselves the space to get to know ourselves better, we will continue to fumble along and look back thinking "Who am I? What is my purpose?". Start today, and you will start to feel the difference.

A few minutes of nothing to clear your mind

Sarah Babiker is a certified positive psychology coach, and co-founder of Soul Space. To find out more about her life coaching services, click here, or send her an email on

If you would like to know more about the range of services available at Soul Space - life coaching, yoga, reiki, and events for all ages, you can find us here.

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