Dolce far Niente- The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

You probably read the title of this post and thought about how many things you have to do that you can’t get done. How do I dare talk about doing nothing? That’s called laziness. Well, not exactly.

I learned about this term while watching the movie, “Eat, Pray, Love”. In the scene, Italian men explain to Liz Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts) how we, Americans, do not reward ourselves properly for hard work. They speak about how we work hard then come home and numb our brains in front of the television or drink ourselves into a stupor. We do not know how to enjoy life and work. He states that an Italian doesn’t have to earn his pleasure, instead he knows he deserves it and gives himself permission to take a break and enjoy life.

This concept stuck with me well after the movie. My days can be filled with many things to do and accomplish. I constantly have things on my to-do list. When I accomplish them, I feel satisfied. There are days when I do nothing, but I rarely feel comfortable not doing anything. I am generally running a ticker list of what I could be doing if I wasn’t sitting there doing nothing. Then I beat myself up for being lazy which makes me overcompensate the following day. Rarely, have I rewarded myself for hard work by mentally giving myself the permission to enjoy a day. It seems like common sense and it should be so easy.

One thing I  admire about other countries is that they do place value on taking a pause in life to smell the roses. You can work hard every day of your life, but all of those days are going to blur together and when you look back you will wish that you spent more time with family, friends or just enjoying a day. For me, I used to sit in the park. There was nothing more peaceful than listening to the song of the birds while people watching. Somehow, I became to busy to just sit and watch. I always have to be on the go or doing something. What if the world slowed down at noon for a mandatory nap? Or what if you could decide to take a break and renew yourself. Numerous studies have reported that it increases productivity and focus. Why do we push ourselves so hard? Because we are told that is what is necessary to succeed. Hard work is necessary, but so is reaping the benefits. Our waistlines and heart disease proves that we need to reduce stress.

What I am finding is that when I am relaxing my mind wanders. When it wanders, I become more creative. I think of more things. I follow my thoughts and I ask and answer questions. I solve problems. I find topics to write about, like this one. This is just sitting here. I can imagine what would happen if I strolled through an Art Museum or visited the park like I used to. Do nothing shouldn’t be on your to-do list because that defeats the purpose. Reward yourself; your spouse; and your children, by taking a day and giving yourself permission to do niente.

Ask yourself: What if my reward for doing what I’m supposed to do is doing what I want to do? Maybe that would be la dolce vita, “the sweet life?”