Why you should try Niksen, the Dutch art of doing nothing at all

Putting your feet up may be the greatest-ever form of self-care. Here is why we’re head over heels for the Dutch answer to burnout.

When was the last time you just sat and did nothing?

No phone, no TV, no laptop — just you, your thoughts and being still.

It would be a daunting prospect for a lot of us, when our constantly “on” lifestyle means there’s a strong pull to always do something, be productive and not waste time.

So what if we told you that being unproductive once in a while is not only OK, but it could be one of the best things you can do for your mental health?

What is Niksen?

The anti-thesis to constant busyness, Niksen is a stress-reducing practice that has emerged from the Netherlands.

In Niksen: The Dutch Art of Doing Nothing, author Carolien Janssen defines Niksen as “similar to mindfulness” in that it requires you to pause.

But it differs – and arguably makes it slightly easier – by giving you permission to just let your mind wander as opposed to having to stay in the moment.

The only requirement is that you’re not doing something with a purpose, but just allowing yourself to be still.


Why Niksen is good for you

Clinical psychologist Lara Kocijan says our constantly busy lives can leave us depleted.

“If we’re always busy then we always have to be busy, and I think there’s this frenetic anxiety that is a vicious cycle that comes into it,” Lara, of The Indigo Project, says.

Lara says feeling the need to be doing something all the time can result in stress and burnout, affecting our physical and emotional wellbeing and even how present we are in our relationships.

So incorporating Niksen into your day allows you to stop the busyness and give yourself time to recharge.

While doing nothing all the time wouldn’t be advisable for our mental health, Lara says that done in moderation “it creates the space to really grow, to really create, to think or to imagine, to fantasise”.

How you can embrace Niksen

Being still with just your thoughts and no distractions can be a little confronting for some, so Lara suggests taking baby steps into the stillness.

It’s about being in an experience that doesn’t require anything of you and gives you permission to be unproductive and not have a goal or outcome to achieve.

You could ease yourself into practising a little Niksen in your day by:

  • Admiring the view out the window.
  • Sitting in a park and just taking in your surroundings.
  • Or just simply listening to music.

The aim is to sit and not feel guilty doing so.

In the process you may just find yourself feeling a little more peaceful.

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Written by Tania Gomez.