The Art of Doing Nothing

05/06/2015

Rest is an important and often under-appreciated aspect of health and fitness. People who try to keep moving all the time are destined to burnout sooner or later, through accidents, injuries, exhaustion or sickness. Understanding the natural ebbs and flow of life is an important aspect of fitness, with your off-time just as important as your on-time. Rest days are the perfect example of this philosophy, with people benefiting greatly by letting their body recuperate and recover after intense exercise.

Sleep is the ultimate rest, with plenty of horizontal time good for your mind and your body. Sleeping allows your spine to relax and unwind, and your muscles to stay passive for hours on end. Having a good bed and spending enough time in it are vital to any well-rounded fitness regime, with workouts so much easier to perform when you've had enough rest the night before. Daytime naps are also a good option, with grown-ups benefiting from a little down-time just as much as kids.

While sleep is important, the art of doing nothing is not just about sleeping in all morning. Meditation and mindfulness techniques allow you to do nothing at any time of day, with an experience of peace and quiet possible even in the busiest surroundings. Mindfulness is about honouring the present moment by focusing your attention on the sensations, emotions and thoughts that surround you all the time. Mindfulness is a great way to reduce stress and promote well-being, with this practice associated with a wide range of physical and psychological benefits.

People often associate meditation with cross-legged sitting and passivity. This is not necessarily the case, however, with active or dynamic meditation practices a great way to experience stillness at any moment. Active meditation can even be performed while exercising, and indeed, is often the thing that separates great athletes from the rest of us. Whether it's called "getting in the zone", "focusing on your breath", or simply "paying attention", professional athletes have long understood the importance of finding the quiet spaces amidst the chaos.

The art of doing nothing is about recognising the space that's around us instead of constantly trying to fill it up. Whether that means eight solid hours of sleep every night or half an hour of focused attention as you run through the park, everyone has a different way to honour the infinite stillness at the heart of our being. Because at the end of the day, the art of doing nothing is not really about doing nothing at all, it's about paying attention, doing things better, and riding the wave of life as well as you possibly can.