Why You Should Allow Yourself to Be Lazy at Times
READING TIME: 5 MINUTES
Sometimes, it feels like we just need to slip into a proper lazy mode, lift our mental feet up, and let our minds wander. In these moments, it's as if we only have an appetite for daydreaming, relaxing on a sofa and simply doing nothing at all.
But, in the modern, fast-paced society, where you always need to be on the go, we struggle with allowing ourselves to be lazy. Even when we catch some free time to relax, we can't because we feel like there's always something more productive we could be doing, like checking our emails or finishing cleaning the kitchen.
However, there are many advantages to laziness that are backed by science. Being lazy and letting our minds wander are essential cognitive tools, helping us be more creative and productive.
Let’s find out why!
Why Do We Feel the Need to Be Lazy?
Well, first of all, we're all just human beings, and laziness is our inherent human nature. If you take a moment and observe the world around you, you'll notice that even most animals, especially highly efficient predators, spend most of their time doing nothing in particular.
Secondly, we often push ourselves too hard to be super achievers and innovative thinkers at all times. We cram as many tasks as possible into one day, dodging slower and healthier activities, such as reading a book or taking a walk.
But, in a world where information, communication, and opportunity are moving faster than ever, we need to hit a pause button from time to time and give our brains a chance to process all that noise.
We need to relearn how to truly relax and permit ourselves to be lazy at times. And by laziness, we don't mean filling every moment with pointless distractions, such as surfing Facebook and other mindless activities that drain us even more. We mean genuine idleness when we choose to do nothing. Only this way can we allow our bodies and minds to recover and reboot completely.
Is Laziness a Lost Art?
Couch potato, deadbeat, slacker are just some of the many pejorative terms you can find in dictionaries for 'lazy' people—even the Bible lists 'sloth' as one of the seven deadly sins.
In today's culture, obsessed with efficiency, laziness is a lost art. Idleness is seen as something useless, as the flip side of the productivity coin. As a result, people who would rather take a midday nap often feel guilty and ashamed next to those who rise and shine at 4 am to hit the gym before their twelve-hour workday.
But, we shouldn’t be restricted by these social norms because, according to the scientific research, it’s these moments of idleness that help us develop our creative mind.
What Are the Benefits of a Wandering Mind?
If you think back to your last great idea or creative insight - what were you doing at that moment? Chances are you weren't sitting at your desk, focused on a specific task. It probably happened while you were sipping your morning coffee, taking a long walk, or showering.
Research shows that only in these moments of unfocused attention when we're slightly bored, our mind begins to explore and contemplate different fictive scenarios and wonders to amazing places. According to a recent study led by Benjamin Baird and Jonathan Schooler, during our bouts of idleness, our mind visits past 12% of the time, present 28%, and future 48% of the time, and for the time that remains, our mind is completely blank.
While these percentages really don't matter, it's important to highlight that during this time, while we're unaware of all the processes our brain does when it wanders away, three crucial things happen:
1. We unearth new and creative ideas: When we allow our mind to travel through the past, present, and the future, it connects each of these mental destinations and comes up with more creative insights. For example, we might recall an idea we read about a few weeks ago and use it for solving a current problem.
2. We recharge our batteries: When our mind is at rest, so are we. If we don't focus our attention on a particular thing and let our mind roam, we store more energy to help us focus better later. Walking or running without music or other distractions, or doing any habitual and effortless activities, are beneficial for both our physical and mental health.
3. We make plans for the future: When our attention is scattered and unfocused, we tend to think more about the future and long-term goals. So, without even realizing it, we’re setting intentions and plans for the future.
Having this in mind, what will you do the next time you feel the urge to just loll on the sofa? Are you going to allow your guilt to resist that instinct again, or are you finally going to give yourself permission to be lazy?
The risk of being stigmatized as a lazy slacker might be worth it because for great things to happen, sometimes you just have to do nothing at all.
Certainly she was losing consciousness of outer things. And as she lost consciousness of outer things … her mind kept throwing up from its depths, scenes, and names, and sayings, and memories and ideas, like a fountain spurting.
- Virginia Wolf
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