Niksen on embracing idleness


The Danish concept of hygge, an untranslatable feeling of ‘cosy contentedness” has crept its way into our parlance in recent years. Many of us may even have received a book about it for Christmas 2016.

This year you may find something new in your stocking.

The past 12 months have seen the rise of Niksen. A Dutch verb that most closely translates as “nothing-ing”. Psychologist and Niksen expert Helena Lewis says: “Niksen is the art of doing nothing, aimlessly and without an objective or aim of being productive.

It’s a response to the increased push for productivity that has crept from the workplace and into our own leisure time. We’re constantly looking to optimise our lives, but the to-do lists just seem to get longer and longer. Increasingly there seems to be a shame around being “unproductive”.

Where has this shame come from? The adoption of a more American work culture? The growth of self-employment or the gig economy where if you don’t work you don’t earn? The need to “content-create” for our social media feeds? Home internet meaning activity can be carried out 24/7? 

Whatever the root, the prevalence of anxiety and burn-out in our societies has been well documented.

Niksen is there to give us permission to “switch off”. Even activities that we may consider relaxing such as reading or listening to music do not count as Niksen as often they’re undertaken with a view to getting the most out of our down time.

What could be considered Niksen? Staring out of a window, going for a walk with no destination in mind, watching the world go by with a coffee. Keeping away from tech, busy environments and not wearing a watch can also help.

“Semi-automatic” activities such as knitting do count though, it’s all about letting your mind turn off and just “being”.

Despite Niksen taking us to a place of calm, you may find that doing nothing actually boosts your creativity. Even when we’re ostensibly “doing nothing” our brain is still processing information. I often find ideas come to me when I’m out for a jog and my mind is free to wander, or similarly problems you went to bed puzzling over can seem much clearer in the morning.

The best entry level way of getting into niksen seems to be taking advantage of those times where reflexively we would reach for our phones: on the bus, during an advert break, in a queue, waiting for the kettle to boil… Take a look out the window, contemplate your surroundings and allow your mind to roam where it will. 

There is something curiously satisfying about this process. Whether this comes from the freedom to just space out for a bit or the triumph of resistance over the phone I’m not too sure!

So why not give Niksen a go and embrace your inner, stress-free, Dutch self? No excuses. We have the perfect resource to get you started right here.

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