mental health

The Art of Doing Nothing for Your Mental Health

Tonight my son’s with his mom which means I’ve got a little bit more free time to myself. So what did I do with my free time?

  • Do the laundry
  • Iron my clothes
  • Clean the litter box for Inori
  • Cook dinner
  • Go to the supermarket and buy more fruits
  • Prepare lunch for tomorrow
  • Take out the garbage

Something’s missing in there…that elusive thing we call “me-time”. I’ve successfully managed to fill up my schedule with endless tasks and forgot the most important one.

I think all parents can truly appreciate some alone time. We love our kids to pieces, but time to decompress can feel like it’s few and far between. And when we finally have a bit of free time from our kids, what do we do? We take on piles of chores and catch up with our errands.

Even though I wasn’t terribly successful tonight, I’m learning over the years that it’s OK to press pause on things. Not everything needs to get done right away, for example: could laundry wait until tomorrow? Absolutely! There’s nothing that suggests that if I fail to do the laundry today, my world is going to crumble into pieces all of a sudden. And even if something suddenly becomes more important tomorrow, laundry can likely wait until the day after as well.

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No, it’s not procrastination. It’s a fact that doing laundry today isn’t necessary. Trust me, I checked my dresser…I have enough underwear and socks for the next few days and then some.

I learned that for every chore and task you complete, your mind will constantly flood itself with even more tasks. If I complete my laundry, I’ll probably discover that I have to iron right away. After ironing, I may need to throw out the garbage, and the list goes on and on.

The Art of Doing Nothing

What I’m learning to train my mind to do is to separate what NEEDS to be done vs what COULD be done at a later time and day. Once I identify what can wait…I can soak in that me-time (which apparently is worth twice as much as gold) and do NOTHING.

Let me clarify about “doing nothing”. Doing nothing isn’t necessarily just sitting on a chair staring at a blank wall the same way my cat does every now and then. Doing nothing means to allow your mind to flow freely and to do whatever it asks you to do (other than chores). And don’t get me wrong…I’m not Oscar the Grouch when it comes to my dwelling. My apartment is tidy (ish) and my work clothes are crisply ironed and my kitty is well groomed.

When we allow ourselves to do whatever we enjoy doing, we recharge our mental health. We find pleasure and purpose, other than just being Alice to the Brady’s. That enjoyment might include watching TV, going for a walk, baking new recipes or spending quality time with friends. For me, I value my alone time. As an introvert, I recharge with some quiet solitude, reading, writing or taking a bath. Or I might find myself at the pool or the gym, but alone.

My friend “Mac” at the gym (she’s one half of the adorable duo at my 6 am bootcamp class who I affectionately refer to as “Mac and Tosh) the other day told me that her teenage son had gone on a trip to Europe with his class for two weeks. When asked, “what are you going to do with your time?” I saw a smirk on her lovely face as she gladly replied, “I’m not sure!”

However she spends her alone time, I trust that she’s doing a lot of self-care and recharging of her mind (she wasn’t at bootcamp this morning which tells me she’s really soaking in that extra sleep). She’s a well-tuned lady with good head on her shoulders and something tells me she’s not filling her days with to-do’s, but rather with red wine.

Pressing pause on our hectic lives is crucial for our mental health. We discover a sense of clarity, identity and purpose with where we’re headed. Regardless of how small that purpose is, it’s fuel for our brain that helps improve our mental health.

earth hour 2017

Society and family expectations can sometimes be incredibly daunting and outright unreasonable, but if we inch ourselves away from those subtle voices reminding us that we “should” be doing things a certain way or meeting what everyone else expects of us, we’ll find ourselves living our most honest lives. And the trick to living an honest life is to learn how to let go of those expectations without giving a fuck.

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Jason Lee, Author of Living with the Dragon. Photo by Kristi MacFarlane Photography.

4 thoughts on “The Art of Doing Nothing for Your Mental Health”

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