What is Niksen?

What is Niksen?

May 10, 2020 0 By Rick

Many of us are working from home or simply staying home self-isolating. And many of us find ourselves with time on our hands and nothing to do. Well, if you are already bored from doing nothing, maybe you’re not doing it right. Have you heard of Niksen? No, not the former president of the United States, Richard Nixon, but a Dutch practice worth looking into. If mindfulness and medication aren’t your things, try doing nothing – but with a purpose or what the Dutch call “Niksen.” When you practice Niksen, you step back from whatever you’re doing and just let things be without participating. It’s all about the art of doing nothing. Until recently, Niksen, which means “nothing-ing” in Dutch, was an unknown concept to me, although I’m pretty sure I’ve spent my fair share of time doing “nothing.” If I’ve grasped the concept correctly, Niksen is deliberately doing nothing – just being. And that’s quite different from I usually call doing nothing.

Mindless activities
Mindless activities, such as scrolling through social media or watching TV without really watching it is not the same thing as Niksen. That’s because you’re actually doing something during this time. According to social worker Katy Krimer, “You’re intentionally doing nothing but with no intentions. You’re making a point of sitting down to do nothing, but then you just allow your mind to wander.” To practice Niksen, you’ve got to ditch your devices, screens and anything else that requires your immediate attention. Niksen advocates claim the exercise helps cope with anxiety and is, in many ways, better than medication or mindfulness.

Some overlap with mindfulness
“Niksen emphasizes that we’re human beings, not human doings, which is what mindfulness does,” Krimer says. And that’s where we find the overlap. When we allow our brains to wander, we free up energy that we usually use to focus on doing things. We can become more creative and more productive practitioners claim. But it’s not as easy as practitioners assert. I know because I gave Niksen a try. Sitting still and doing nothing physical was easy, but trying to clear my mind from the jumble of mixed messages that seemingly raced through it at will was a horse of a different color. Hmmm, I thought, this doesn’t seem to be working. Am I practicing Niksen incorrectly?

Not easy to “just be”
I realized this was going to take some time. It turns out, I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. “In our culture, we’re extremely unsuccessful as just being. We don’t understand this concept because even if we know how to slow down, we can get agitated when we do it,” says Krimer. “But the more you practice, the more you’ll be able to realize that you don’t need your phone and that the world won’t come crashing down because you’re not doing anything at that moment,” she says. I couldn’t agree more with her assessment. Society trains us to believe that doing nothing is the same thing as being lazy. But that’s not the case. It’s an incredibly relaxing state we can all enjoy.

How do I start?
That’s a great question. Since there aren’t really any clear-cut steps or instructions for Niksen, you’ve got to experiment and find out what works best for you. Just keep at it and eventually, you’ll slip into the practice and begin to relax. I sat on my balcony and just stared out into space. I didn’t focus on anything in particular. I allowed my thoughts to head off wherever they wanted. And before I knew it, I had found my groove. My son asked me what I was doing and I replied, “Niksen,” I mean nothing. I have to admit, it felt pretty good. Some countries value the art of doing nothing so much that they have contests in it. South Korea, for example, has a “Doing nothing competition.” So, remember, it’s perfectly OK NOT to something all the time.

“Waking rest”
There’s nothing wrong with doing nothing. You don’t have to meditate. You don’t have to contemplate. You don’t have to do anything. Just accept whatever is happening and whatever you experience. As the song says, “Let It Be,” you do nothing and accept what you feel at the moment. Researchers at the Occupational Sleep Medicine Group at Washington State University called waking rest the fourth leg of wellness, the others being exercise, nutrition, and sleep. According to Amanda Lamp, Ph.D., waking rest is “a period of quiet, reflective thought that allows the brain time to consider and process whatever arises spontaneously.” It’s a bit like Marie Kondo’s “decluttering” method that has become so popular, but instead of getting rid of possessions, it’s getting rid of that nagging inner voice that says you must be busy. Niksen is the real deal. Try it and see.