The Art of Doing Nothing

Detox your mind by doing...nothing.

Yugi the Giraffe - 8 August 2018

There isn't much that hasn't been said about how to become more productive. We all race against ourselves, trying to find the ultimate way for us to use all that brainpower we're allegedly not using.

Although yulife is all for maximising our potential, sometimes fixating on doing more is counter-productive and actually makes us do less. If you feel stuck, exhausted or just bored with your methods, it may be worth trying to… do nothing.

Yes, you heard us right. Nothing.

Think about it: we live in this unparalleled pace. We're constantly checking our emails, refreshing our social media, streaming TV - it seems like we're perpetually in motion. When we're at work or at home, there's always something that we're doing. And even when we're on holiday, some of us make a to-do list!

This 'status symbol' of being busy keeps us going. But doing nothing is really healthy for you. Physically, it can reduce heart and breathing rates, and mentally, it clears our heads and increases creativity and problem solving. Generally, it's a great way to manage stress.

The idea that taking a break is important dates back to biblical times (ever heard of the Sabbath?). But in the highly connected world we live in, it's harder than ever - especially with all the guilt that accompanies switching off.

When it comes to relaxing, we have a lot to learn from our friends from Italy. They have a whole concept dedicated to it called 'Dolce Far Niente', or 'the sweetness of doing nothing'. What they mean by that is not just sitting idle - it's about living in the moment without getting bored, appreciating your surroundings and taking a break from the rat-race.

The Italians aren't the only ones who incorporated the art of doing nothing into their lives. The Japanese have a whole term for it - Boketto - which literally means 'gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking about anything specific'. Our minds will go into boketto-mode on their own sometimes when we're really stressed - but learning how to use our ability to turn off our thoughts for our own benefit could be really great for our overall health!


So doing nothing is great for you, but understanding the why doesn't really help you master this art. That's why we took a few minutes to do nothing, and then came back with some ideas for you.


If you're a total beginner, the best time to start practicing the art of doing nothing is when you're not expected to do anything in the first place. On the bus? In the queue to get some coffee? Waiting for a doctor's appointment? Put down that phone and do some nothing.

If you'd like to integrate doing nothing into your daily schedule (and, if you can, your body and mind will really appreciate it), the best time for that is first thing in the morning. This will allow you to start the day with a clear head. If you're not a morning person and every second of extra zzzzz counts, you can try it last thing at night - it'll help you fall asleep.

Once you've mastered the art, you can try a whole day of doing nothing, or a Sabbath, to unwind and detoxify from the week. It even says so in the bible: " six days the lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed"[1]. Hey, if it's good enough for God, it's good enough for us.


The main thing to remember is comfort, comfort and... some more comfort. You won't be able to be doing nothing properly if all you can think about is the chair poking into your back or how chilly you're feeling. Make sure you're cosy, sit on a nice, comfy sofa (or chair, or even a pillow on the floor - whatever floats your boat), and just relax.

If you really need to relieve stress, you can always try the bath - it's the best place to be doing nothing in.

Other great places are a café with a nice glass of wine or cup of tea, an art museum where you can sit on a bench and fully immerse yourself in the paintings, or just the park, woods or any place in nature.


This is the most difficult step for most, because most of us have already forgotten how to relax. Sitting comfortably in your nice set-up? That's the first step.

Next, you should turn off all screens (no vibrate, no silent mode - either airplane mode or turning them off altogether.) The last thing you need is a work email to pop on your screen in the middle of your important nothingness.

That's the only crucial step. Now you should mould your nothing however you see fit. Like to have some calming music in the background? You do you. Want to look at some nice art? Sounds awesome. Prefer to just close your eyes and focus on your own mind? That's great.

We think some breathing exercises are very helpful in getting to that full-boketto mode. The brillaint Dr Chatterjee recommends a great one in his book 'The Four Pillar Plan', called '3-4-5 breathing'. Just breathe in from your nose for three seconds, hold for four, breathe out from your mouth for five seconds, and repeat. This will help you calm your nerves and get into the mood.


Another helpful tip is to cover all clocks. There isn't a time limit on doing nothing, so you could try to do nothing for as long as you feel is necessary - whether it's 2 minutes or an hour. When we have a clock visible, our instinct is to take a look at them and make sure we're not 'wasting time'. But in order to properly relax, you need to be present in the moment - and the clock will make it difficult. So just do your nothing, and stop when you feel you've had enough. It doesn't matter how long it was, as long as you _really _did nothing.

Check out our blog for more great tips on wellbeing.


  1. Exodus, 31:17 ↩︎

Yugi the Giraffe

Yugi is our YuLife mascot. Like all giraffes they've got a big heart – in fact the biggest heart of all land animals.