The Power Of Doing Nothing

The Dutch Art of Niksen.


The Netherlands is one of the smallest countries in Europe which nevertheless continuously ranks as one of the happiest nations in the world. Of course, high standard of living, stable political and economic climate all play their part in keeping this nation happy. Yet, if you talk to the Dutch, they will tell you that what really keeps them healthy, creative and happy is the art of Niksen.  

Literally, Niksen means “to do nothing”. It is all about those moments when people allow themselves to switch off from the outside world, put all duties on halt, press pause and just relax. In many cultures around the world being idle ranks among deadliest sins, and those who do nothing are labelled as lazy, useless and unproductive. Yet, the Dutch managed to turn doing nothing into an art and one the happiest lifestyles ever. 

Practicing Niksen at least 5 minutes a day can positively transform your entire life. Best thing about it is that it doesn’t require any special skills or settings. All you need to do is unplug, forget about your duties, switch off your feelings of guilt and all the thoughts about things you should be doing. Find yourself a quiet space – your bedroom, a corner in your office, a park, a cafe or a spa. Play some music or stay silent, light up candles or switch off the light, stare outside the window, walk, sit, lie down, spray your favourite scent or just breathe in fresh air. You may even close your eyes and mentally travel to your happy place.

The key to Niksen is not to do anything “effective”, “productive” or “useful”. The ultimate goal of it is to empty your head and restart your body and brain. To know if what you are doing is Niksen or not, ask yourself three simple questions:

  • Am I doing something productive or useful?
  • Am I doing this to impress my boss or business relations?
  • Will this directly benefit my social connections? 

If your answer to at least one of the questions is no, you may be niksing. To be certain, check the following statements:

  • This is costing me zero physical effort or headspace, and afterwards I feel calmer and more relaxed. 
  • I have unplugged fully, unhindered by thoughts of all the (more useful) things I should be doing instead. 
  • If anyone saw me now, they would think I am just being lazy – and I don’t care. 

If ALL three statements are true, it is very likely that you are niksing. 

The daily practice of Niksen helps to redefine your life goals, review your attitudes and help you spend time on more meaningful, fulfilling things. Now, let’s just Niksen. 

*More on Niksen can be found in the book by Annette Lavrijsen, The Dutch Art of Doing Nothing 

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