Why It’s Healthy to Sit There and Do Nothing

Taking time to meditate can help you reduce stress and even help you better manage your time.

There are literally hundreds of books and articles on time management out there. So many, in fact, that even trying to work out which way to go can be a time-consuming process. Is it all about making lists? Maybe putting your tasks into a priorities matrix (whatever that is)? Is it about doing less? Or using your time more effectively?

Meditation and mindfulness are really useful places to start with your approach to time and how you spend it. After all, if you’re going to start managing your time, maybe you should get to know it first.

Time is one of the first things that new meditators become acutely aware of. We’re so used to filling every second of our lives that creating a space to do nothing but sit and concentrate on your breathing can feel very strange. In some people, it can even provoke a feeling close to panic.

With your eyes closed and nothing to hang on to, you’re suddenly confronted by the yawning chasm between the present moment and the moment when the meditation will end. What will you do? Well, part of the beauty of meditation is that there is nothing to do. You’re there to try to get to know your mind, without all the stimulation of your day-to-day life. With some practice, what you start to realize is that your mind has everything it needs already. That even without the barrage of over-stimulation, you’re okay. Just you, your breath, and a sense of the underlying stillness of mind.

This new perspective can be revelatory to people who’ve spent their lives running from particular thoughts or feelings, or trying to blank them out with repeated actions or habits. When you begin a meditation practice, many of the other ways you spend time may start to seem, well, less worthwhile. From a time-management point of view, that can be a very good thing.

Even if you don’t meditate, perhaps you’ve heard of this idea of “being in the moment.” An important part of mindfulness practice is sustained attention, or non-distraction. If you can learn to focus on a subtle, relatively boring object like the flow of your breath, then other things that require concentration become much easier. This is really just another way of looking at daily meditation; you’re practicing being in the moment. What you start to see is that the need for distraction is, in a way, a constant demand for newness. The mind wants to jump from one thing to the next, but in meditation we’re giving it a chance, by not offering it anything new, just to rest in the here and now.

Just 10 minutes of meditation a day can have a positive effect. It doesn’t seem like much, but making that commitment to your own mental well-being, and prioritizing that, often helps to keep things in perspective. Finding time is one of the chief reasons people cite for not beginning meditation, but paradoxically, finding time to do nothing for 10 minutes might just help you with everything else on your plate.

READ MORE: 6 Ways to Make Your Attention Span Longer