“What I like doing best is Nothing.”
This is one of my favourite quotes from the children’s stories about Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne. It’s said by Christopher Robin, a human child who has adventures with his toy animal friends, Piglet, Tigger, Kanga, Eeyore and others, as well as with a bear called Winnie the Pooh.
In this exchange it’s Winnie the Pooh he’s speaking to, and Pooh asks how it’s possible to do nothing.
Christopher Robin explains: “Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say, ‘Oh, Nothing,’ and then you go and do it. It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”
What an excellent description!
As adults, we very rarely take the time to ‘do nothing’, and when we do, it’s more often than not accompanied by feelings of guilt, or worry that there’s something else we should be doing instead.
I don’t mean just taking time off - although that is very important too! But we have a tendency to fill time off from work or chores with other things - activities, events, dinners or coffee meetups, enjoyable things that nevertheless still require energy, whether physical or emotional.
Sometimes it can be utterly liberating to just do nothing at all. It can also mean that the body switches on the relaxation mode of the Autonomic Nervous System, essential for healing and repair.
Doing nothing could come in many forms, depending on your own situation and lifestyle. My favourite way of doing nothing is like Christopher Robin’s - I love to go for walks, listening to the birds and the sound of the sea, and not worrying about where I’m going or how quickly I’m going to get there.
I could walk faster, or even run, to maximise the exercise I’m getting. I could listen to podcasts or audiobooks to increase my learning and awareness.
But I don’t, I just do nothing. And while it may be difficult to forgive yourself for ‘wasting’ time, to let precious moments away from work escape without making any progress in a book, television series or other activity, the reward is that those few minutes of doing nothing make the rest of my days calmer and happier.
As Christopher Robin says, “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”