Writen by Polina Igorevna Lynch
I’ve recently been to visit my family back home in Russia. My trips are usually filled with social gatherings, shopping, paperwork and so on. But this trip was different. Immediately after arrival, I went to my grandmother’s country house, which was very far from the city. There was no internet, so I couldn’t write my thesis, read the news, or browse for hours on social media.
Moreover, there was not much to do as my family members took care of the food and the house. I felt isolated and anxious. I was not busy: I had no deadlines, no agenda, and no chores. I could have enjoyed being finally free from my duties, but there was an unpleasant feeling growing inside me. I decided to explore what I really felt and why I wasn’t enjoying myself. I felt unproductive, lazy, and sluggish. I was also afraid of missing out. Przybylski et al. (2013) wrote about the fear of missing out and defined it as omnipresent anxiety about people attending entertaining events and gaining experiences, which you are not a part of.
Instead of repressing these negative thoughts and feelings, I let them take over for a while and then I looked at them from a distance. I realized that in a modern world, where success is measured by how busy we are and by how much we have done, these thoughts and fears are normal. However, it is also good to stop and connect to yourself and your inner world. The questions one needs to ask are: What are my motivations and goals? Are these goals mine or somebody else’s? Do I have time to reflect on my progress, or I am too anxious to face my feelings?
During this trip, I’ve realized that doing nothing is not being lazy. According to Gini (2003), laziness and leisure are not the same things. Gini also writes that we have external pressure to perform and internal pressure to have goals that give us meaning. Why don’t we challenge ourselves and imagine that we reached those goals, and the meaning was not there?
People complain that they don’t have enough free time, but then, when they do, it becomes filled with things that do not give proper rest anyway. Workaholics are praised by society, and those who have more free time are often viewed as irresponsible. Gini (2003) warns that workaholics tend to see all parts of their life as tasks or duties. Their minds are so focused on chores that they often do not distinguish between visiting their relatives, washing their car, or spending time with friends. Each day is a to-do list of things, and life is a process of slowly ticking all the boxes. Moreover, the author claims that the line between work and rest is often blurred, which leads to people working more hours.
It took me two days to settle in and stop looking for chores to do. Instead, I spent quality time with my family, found long-forgotten childhood toys, went mushroom picking. I also spent a long time relaxing in our orchard, actively doing nothing. After five days of such rest, I was ready to get back to my busy life. Nevertheless, I felt that these “lazy” days were important for me and my mental health. They taught me that little things brought much joy into life and reminded me of the precious fleeting moments with my loved ones. Frankly, I did feel guilty for being unproductive, but as time went by, these feelings were replaced by a rare sense of calmness and gratitude.
When we make time for ourselves and get rid of distractions and the “outside noise”, we can gain a rare insight into who we really are and our goals. When we go on a date, we are excited to learn about the other person. I suggest we also strive to spend quality time with ourselves and focus on what makes us wholesome.
Gini, A. (2003). The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure, and Vacation (1st ed.). Routledge.
Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioural correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(4), 1841–1848. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.02.014