Doing nothing often brings on feelings of guilt. But at the same time it is essential to find a way to quiet your mind and doing nothing can be one of the best ways.
And, As it happens, going outdoors is the best kind of nothing… cos, you know, it’s not nothing.
This blog post is following on from one I wrote recently: What if the outdoors is not the answer? The title of it might look as if this is a rebuttal of my own thoughts but it is a reaction to a comment on that post:
“Spending time in nature is time spent closer to the mind's natural state (or at least that's how I see it). It's about reducing complexity to simplicity and cutting back on pointless, anxiety-inducing stimuli.”
In that post I spoke about my anxiety and negativity and how I get a break fro mid when I am outdoors.
The comment by Alex Roddie (partially quoted above) prompted me to rethink a little and it seems to me that one reason the outdoors does provide respite from what we might deem “real life”, and the anxiety and negativity that afflicts my mind, is because it is a glorified and guilt-free way of doing nothing.
Now, when I say doing “nothing” I mean stepping away from all the hooks and traps of real life; the phone, the emails, the work, the social media, the washing, the cleaning, the school run, the bins, picking up the parcel from the post office, remembering to buy your kids some shin pads and so on.
If I take an hour off work to sit and leaf through a book, perhaps just looking at some pictures - in essence doing nothing other than amusing myself - I will feel guilt.
I should be working. I should be productive. I should be accomplishing something.
It is the way my mind works and I can try to convince myself that my “timeout” is a reward for work I have put in or even that I simply need some down time but this seldom alleviates the feeling of guilt.
“Get over it, Tom”, I can imagine my parents generation saying. And there is probably something to be said for that however it doesn't change my disquiet. Deep down in my subconscious I am probably constantly comparing myself negatively with some ideal which I see, read about or imagine - the perfect, productive and successful human who never “does nothing” - and I not only does it mean I strive to be constantly busy trying to “accomplish” something but I find this perpetual motion in the mind is extremely taxing.
I am probably getting a blog post out of it so why should I feel guilty?
Of course if I chuck the packraft in my pack and walk off to the river, I am not doing nothing. I am positively doing something, probably getting a blog post out of it anyway so why should I feel guilty? I shouldn’t, I don't, I am happy about it.
But in truth as I step outdoors and wander out of town my mind is not doing much or at least it is letting go of those hooks, distancing itself from those traps and allowing a bit of nothing in.
As guilt-free pleasure goes, spending time in nature is surely better than any number of other diversions but it still leaves me somewhat at a loss on how to translate this acceptance of it to other diversions in my daily life.
Let me know how you allow yourself downtime in your daily life by commenting below or get in touch.