Niksen! From the Netherlands, Try it Today!

January 16, 2021

Have you ever wanted to do nothing–absolutely nothing–and feel it’s productive and not feel guilty about it? I have.

Then I had an unexpected fall. About a week ago while snowshoeing, I headed for an incline up and out from a frozen lake. The incline was filled with small trees and bushes–thorny brambles really–and my left snowshoe’s metal claws clung to a small stump, hidden in deep snow. Surprised, I was unable to take another step. And I fell forward, stretching my entire right leg and hitting the ground with that knee.

Initially I thought, ugh, I have done it now. But no, I readily got up. And nothing hurt. I yelled to my snowshoe partner that I was okay and went on.  We snowshoed another half hour.

About three hours later the pain and swelling began. The retired nurse in me bucked going to ER, not knowing which doc might be on call plus the worry about covid-19. And I knew to begin RICE activities: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

That evening and the following days I spent doing RICE and Niksen. I had read about Niksen a few months ago and became interested. But at the time, my life was too busy, I told myself, to indulge in such an activity.

In the Netherlands, Niksen is their Dutch word that literally means to do nothing, to be idle or doing something without any use. It’s an activity, such as staring out a window into nature or listening to music or sitting and looking at art work, with no purpose other than simple relaxation. My readings and research told me that this daily practice of Niksen will improve our well-being and mental health by decluttering our minds. Plus, it makes us more alert and productive afterward.

No, it is not mindless scrolling through social media or streaming whole seasons of shows. Niksen is intentional purposelessness, the opposite of distraction.  It’s like meditation but without the postures, instruction, and classes, etc. Anyone can do Niksen, though it might be more difficult than you think. If my mind wanders to unsettling places, I try an absorbing, repetitive task to keep it busy.

We can niks in a cafe too—when our cafes become safe to niks in. (Yes, we can use “niks” as a verb!) Niks-ing can soothe burnout by giving our brains time to process the massive amounts of information we take in every day that, in turn, can boost our creativity by making space for new ideas. Doing nothing is not being lazy—it’s an art.

There I was, all those days, practicing Niksen. And loving it. And not feeling guilty. And forgetting about my pain. Forgetting everything. I began noticing, out my living room windows, what my maple and pine trees actually hold and look like. I watched gray and black squirrels running, gathering, searching. I became interested in what birds were up to, how trees are affected by various winds. And I relaxed. And rested and de-stressed. And decluttered my mind. And became alert to and interested in everything out those windows.

Later after seeing an orthopedic doc who took x-rays and determined that I had not broken or torn anything, he said I had sprained, strained, and stretched muscles and tendons. After a few more days of RICE, I daily strolled around my home, began this blog, wrote a short story, worked on my third book, composed a poem, called family and friends, created a new notecard, and finished reading a book I’d been waiting to find time for.  Yes, I was indeed more productive.

Niksen. Try it. Don’t wait to become injured for it to change your life.

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