When it comes to wellness trends it seems we rarely come up with our own ideas, looking instead to our European neighbours for inspiration.
First came hygge, the Danish word we adopted to make sitting at home and getting cosy cool again; then we borrowed lagom from the Swedes, seeking contentment and balance in everything we do; we even tried plogging, which involved running and picking up litter at the same time. Unsurprisingly we stole fika too, which is basically eating pastries at trendy coffee shops.
The new word in wellbeing town, though, is Niksen – a Dutch concept that means doing absolutely nothing, and it’s probably about to be all over your Insta feed. Brace yourselves.
What is Niksen?
In an age where we thrive on being always-on and busy, Niksen is the antidote – because it literally refers to ‘engaging in the valued art of doing nothing’, as Dutch-born psychologist Jan P. de Jonge of People Business Psychology tells Metro.co.uk.
‘In Holland, people still value their downtime,’ says Jan. ‘You could say “niksen” is what others might call practising mindfulness.’
Taken from the Dutch word ‘niks’ which means ‘nothing’, it’s the opposite of being productive with our time.
‘It allows people to turn off their mobile phones, shut their diaries and forget deadlines, and even all of the mundane chores and jobs for a little while.’
Mindfulness, though, is about staying present and engaging with the moment you’re in, whether it’s mindful eating or doing a ‘body scan’ to centre your mind on the here and now. Niksen, on the other hand, is about letting go and having no purpose at all – something most people will find tough.
What are the benefits?
It stands to reason that taking time out to just be is going to be good for us, especially given that stress and anxiety is a modern epidemic.
‘Niksen promotes a sense of wellbeing, because it enables you to be calm, enjoy just being and possibly reflect and think about what ‘is’,’ agrees de Jonge.
Essentially, it’s taking a time out.
‘Our brains need to temporarily switch off sometimes, not just during sleep, but also during breaks whilst more awake. It makes us happier.’
Experts have suggested it could have similar benefits to meditation, helping to reduce stress at a time where burnout is now a recognised medical condition.
Early adopters believe it works. Jenny Holden, a communications expert and speaker at Chorus Comms, says she’d recommend the practice to anyone after adding it to her daily lunch breaks.
‘Just the very thought of doing nothing was once something that horrified me, until a Dutch friend of mine suggested that I slow down, take my foot off the wheel and take some time out to practise Niksen,’ Holden tells us.
‘This was something I was extremely sceptical about, especially because there’s always something to be done – whether that’s official work for my clients, checking social media, home admin, washing and ironing, getting stuff ready for the kids and so on. Every second of the day counts.’
It was during a short stay in hospital when her phone battery died and she had nothing else to do that Holden finally gave the idea a go.
She says: ‘Niksen forced me that day to tune into my head and body like I’d perhaps never done so before. It enabled me to deep breathe every breath, exhale the anxiety, and mentally slow-down.
‘Within ten minutes of doing nothing – literally just staring and listening to myself – my head began to clear and sort out my work and home ‘to do’ lists, it started to cultivate greater ideas to implement and developed new content subjects to share. And all without a digital device nearby.’
Proving all of our secondary school teachers wrong, being a daydreamer and taking a moment to ourselves could be the rest all of us need. Bupa’s Mental Health Nurse Adviser Thomas Jones says it is important for our minds to sit back.
Thomas tells us: ‘The Dutch concept of Niksen is definitely something we could all take inspiration from in today’s ever-busy, switched-on world. Allowing ourselves time to sit with our own thoughts, to truly relax and restore ourselves, is crucial for aiding stress relief and improving our mental wellbeing.’
How do you practise Niksen?
When was the last time you did absolutely nothing? Exactly. Niksen could simply be five minutes of sitting in a comfy chair (perhaps bought during your hygge phase – Scandi style is optional) or taking ten to just stare out of the window.
The aim of the game is in fact to be sitting or laying aimlessly and without purpose. We admit it doesn’t sound that riveting, but that’s kind of the point – just be still, and just be.
That said, adding it to your to-do list for the day would be somewhat counterproductive (and we can’t see our boss being impressed by ‘do nothing’ appearing in our schedules). In fact, being less regimented about how you plan your day is just as important.
‘Less is more,’ de Jonge tells me. ‘Building in flexibility of your diary, and how you let your time be claimed in the day has proven to reap rewards in productivity and creativity.’
It’s important to see it as guilt-free rest, too, as opposed to procrastinating or wasting time – else you may find yourself drifting into negative thoughts and cause more stress than you had in the first place.
It can’t hurt to try. After all, as de Jonge tells us: ‘Het kost nix’ (it costs nothing). Makes a change from all those soft grey cushions and pastries…
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