why doing nothing is important for mental health

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When was the last time you did nothing? And I don’t mean sitting and watching TV without paying attention or using your cell phone without a specific goal. But yes, stop and pay attention to the passing of life, without being in any hurry or the need to occupy time with something useless?

The truth is that with the rush of everyday life and the large number of constant stimuli, with notifications that appear all the time on the cell phone, most people don’t find time to, in fact, rest their mind. However, it is precisely this leisure time that helps us to have more productivity, more creativity and, of course, better quality of life.

“We are living in a high performance society. What I observe is that people are very focused on the quantity of production and not on the quality”, analyzes psychologist Aline Vernier.

In times of excess, when you work too much, consume too much and get tired in the same proportion, stress and anxiety are frequent. And although the pandemic has contributed to this – today, Brazil is one of the leaders in anxiety cases and depression in the world – this high demand starts much earlier, with the Industrial Revolution.

With the emergence of machines that perform and facilitate a good part of manual work, society starts to have more time for itself. But instead of valuing this free time, we started to condemn it and any synonym for rest is frowned upon.

“From that moment on, we entered a speed of work that, since then, only accelerates”, explains Izabela Jatene, anthropologist and PhD in Social Sciences from PUC-Rio. “So it’s important to keep in mind that we’re not adapted nor are we allowed to have nothing to do,” she warns.

That’s how buyer Bruna Freschinetti, 26, felt for just over a year. The exhausting work routine – imposed by her bosses and her own internal demands – made her go into depression. “Day-to-day consumed me a lot. Clearly, it was a job that needed more people, but I did it alone. I arrived at 7 am and left at 9 pm”, says she, who also took work home and did it during the weekends. “It was a fear of not being good enough, of being sent away in the middle of the pandemic.”

The diagnosis of depression and anxiety was enough to make her look elsewhere and put her mental health as a priority. She established that one day a week she would unplug from everything. “Sundays are sacred to me. I don’t even turn on my cell phone.”

Moments of solitude are essential for self-knowledge

As a social being, the human being likes to be accompanied. However, moments of solitude are essential for getting to know each other better. “Many times, the person cannot be quiet with himself because the thought makes so much internal noise, causes so much anxiety, that he puts himself in occupations, precisely so as not to hear himself”, indicates the psychologist Aline.

According to her, providing moments of self knowledge helps us to listen to the body. So it doesn’t take a disease or a very serious problem for the person to stop and rest.

“When they told me that I was tired, I went looking for a hobby. And it was the worst year of my life, because it was desperate to enjoy doing something and not being able to because I was stuck at work”, recalls chef Gustavo Pereira, from 42 years. After a 20-year career in advertising, as the director of a large agency, he felt that his passion was elsewhere – that it was no longer the office. “In 2015, I came to the conclusion that I needed to stop.”

He took advantage of the 365 days of leisure to be inspired by every little thing that crossed his path. “Most of the recipes that I put in my restaurant today came from that time, because I had time, tested a lot and made mistakes without guilt, without fear”, she says.

Today, in the kitchen, he proposes the same break experience to his customers. “I am a miner from the farm. My grandmother taught me to cook with love, to eat around the tables telling stories and to enjoy the food”, he says. “So I always serve strained coffee and tell them how this coffee was made, involving the person. Because if they don’t have five minutes to stop, I don’t want them to drink the coffee. We don’t have espresso here. It’s just strained, and that’s all. with the explanation”, he guarantees.

He defends leisure as a tool to awaken creativity. “People’s big mistake is to think that creative leisure is harmful. The moment I decide to relax, I’m helping myself in two ways: in my mental health, as an individual, and as a legal entity, because I’ll arrive more kind, calm and maybe with an idea that I hadn’t thought of at work”, he reflects.

Saturated brain does not produce

The creator of the term “creative leisure”, Italian sociologist Domenico De Masi, has argued since 1995 that the brain cannot be forced to produce when it is already saturated with information. However, when the person is satisfied and happy, ideas tend to arrive unexpectedly. Therefore, it is necessary to know how to conciliate work, studies and leisure, without overloading at any time. This lightness makes the brain relax, organize the information learned, reflect on its true needs and think differently than usual.

“Creative leisure is extremely important for our creativity. When we are relaxed – whether in a bath, washing the dishes, walking in the park – we are able to find creative solutions to our problems”, he says. consultant and content creator Ana Carvalho. Specialist in teaching about creative planning, Ana understood that rest was part of her job. “When you understand this importance, you turn it into a habit and stop feeling guilty about not producing.”

It is important to differentiate this idleness from procrastination. Rest time should be used responsibly, typically without a cell phone present, so that you consciously choose to do nothing rather than shirk a responsibility.

Therefore, the organization of time is essential so that moments of rest and contemplation fit into your life. “The generation of now has a lot of blaming itself for not producing and showing others how it is producing”, explains the psychologist. That way, time that could be used for rest is spent on social media – which definitely doesn’t help the brain to rest.

“With the cell phone, we end up overloading our brain, as if we had the obligation to always be busy”, says neuropsychologist Camilla Monti Oliveira.

To think about the idea of ​​rest for the brain, you need to understand how it works. “We know that the brain likes routine, so whatever we do, it takes practice. You won’t be able to take a whole afternoon to do anything. But maybe if you start with five minutes, then increase it to 10, to 15, will arrive at a suitable time for your routine, without guilt”, she indicates.

From ‘dolce far niente’ to ‘siesta’

In some cultures, the concept is part of everyday life. O dolce far niente, “the sweetness of doing nothing”, is an example of this. For Italians, one of life’s pleasures is enjoying time – whether it’s drinking wine, watching the sunset or playing for hours with a pet. Stress, pressure and haste are prohibited.

In Spain, the time of siesta after lunch it’s sacred – in many cities, stores close so owners and employees can rest. In the Netherlands, the concept of niksen translates the ability to completely disconnect from the world and oneself to work on personal development, doing nothing, just observing. In Japan, this is related to the contemplation of nature and the transience of time – much practiced in some meditations.

In short, time to reflect can change your life for the better. That’s what instructor Juliana Carvalhaes, 39, felt. “The effects were gradual, but one day I realized that I was always happy, that I liked to go out, make friends, people thought I was funny, that’s when I realized that I had changed”, she says.

At age 15, after a panic attack, his doctor recommended transcendental meditation. “It’s a technique that has a very quick effect on rest. But after I had children (Gabriel, 4 years old, and Helena, 6) I realized that just resting was not enough for me. I also needed to not freak out.” , remember. “It was when I studied mindfulness, which helped me to recognize my triggers, to understand what is good for me and what is not.”

She says that the same transformation she felt after starting the practice, abandoning the stress and rush of everyday life to become someone more calm and positive, she sees today in her students – most of them mothers between 35 and 45 years old. “I notice much more lightness in them when they relate, especially with regard to guilt. I realize that they are living better, with no internal demands regarding motherhood, food, work.”

How to live idleness

If you don’t have time to do something you enjoy, something is wrong. The day will have no more than 24 hours, so see if your choices make sense for your life.

Being present in what you do, without future worries or distractions, is essential to give your brain a breather. If you’re doing the dishes, be there. At mealtimes, focus on food. If you’re expecting an app car, don’t automatically pick up the phone.

Each one will need a type of rest and for a certain time. Through self-knowledge it is possible to understand your needs and the type of break you need – sleep, contemplate, make a coffee, etc.

Choose times to contemplate or meditate. Start with five minutes and gradually increase the time.

There is no need to blame yourself for not being productive all the time. After all, leisure is what will keep you productive in the long run.

About Jenni Smith

She's our PC girl, so anything is up to her. She is also responsible for the videos of Play Crazy Game, as well as giving a leg in the news.

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