Take Time Out To Do Nothing

What is the first thing you pick up before leaving?

I’m guessing for most people it would be a mobile phone.

We all rely heavily on our phones, tablets and other devices, they provide us with infinite information at our fingertips, but, with recent reports of emotional/psychological conditions like NOMO – No Mobile Phone Phobia (No, Its not a joke, this is a real condition) – being reported, is this increasing over reliance preventing us from switching off?

Author: Nicky Forster

I have always been an advocate of us taking ourselves into action, and if we do this consistently over a long enough period the rewards will eventually emerge.

The message being the effort overtime will always equate to success.


I will always endorse this and feel that to make any lasting change we have to make a change, and that starts with action. However, within this action we also have to have moments of calm, quiet reflection. Time to clear our mind and do nothing, we often overlook this believing it to be unimportant and worthless but it’s a really tough yet valuable thing to do.


The problem is that we’ve evolved to keep looking ahead and working towards a future goal, whether it is finishing an important work document or putting the bins out, there is always the next thing to keep both our mind and body active.

We are so engrossed in forward movement that we take on too much and rest too little. There is no pause in the present because we have a sense that we must keep working.


As a long-distance marathon and ultra-marathon runner, I’ve learned how important it is to clear my mind of unwanted thoughts. When your feet have painful blisters, your muscles hurt and you still have 10 miles to run, you have to learn quickly how to clear your mind of all the negative thoughts that are telling you to stop. At times it really is not easy, and like most things the more you do it the better you become, but this approach as always worked for me not only with sport, but with life too.


Our daily lives are bombarded by an overload of noise and visual stimulation, our brains are hard wired to be entertained with little or no thoughts and therefore consciously doing nothing is a tough thing to do.


An example of this is trying to focus on your breathing for five minutes without your thoughts wandering off elsewhere, it’s almost impossible, whereas scrolling through social media streams for 30 minutes is easy, the mind is being occupied by low level stimulation.


This has obviously been accelerated over the past 20 years with the development of mobile phone technology and especially over the last five years with social media moving towards the trend of short intense video clips like we see with Tik Tok and Instagram.

Previous to these we had to walk from one room to another room or from inside to outside to get such a change in visual stimulation, now we can have hundreds of these visual bursts in 30 minutes of doom scrolling.


Why is this a bad thing?

This overload of stimulation affects our ability to focus, reducing our attention span, increasing our susceptibility to distractions. It increases cortisol production over a protracted period of time which Increases stress and anxiety.


As with most things to do with the mind, the best way to control or adapt our mind and its neural pathways is with the body. The mind follows the body more than we realise.


The greatest example of this is exercise, I’ve long since understood the importance of exercise in my daily routine to reduce stress and anxiety and maintain a healthy mental and physical state.


I exercise daily, every day, making sure that I hit my recommended quota of 150 minutes of Zone 2, which is conversational pace, of cardiovascular exercise every week. I will also do resistance training to maintain muscle tone to maintain posture and reduce injury 3 times a week.


Spend time daily practicing things like Yoga Nidra, meditation, or breathwork in order to get better at focusing on our interoception, the sensations from inside the body. Evidence shows that interoception, the signals our body sends to our brain, plays a significant role in helping us regulate our emotions


Periods of interoception allow us to recognise how our body feels physically, linking it to our emotional state.


Take scheduled breaks from social media, and if possible take schedule of breaks from the mobile phone altogether, especially in the early part of each day. Before picking your phone up in the morning and looking at emails or social media, begin your daily routine without technology and be present in the moment enjoying a morning walk, exercise, shower, or just with thoughts on the day to come


Try to factor this into your daily routine, spending 5 to 10 minutes every day on just doing nothing, thinking about nothing other than what’s going on inside your body at that moment in time.

You’ll be surprised at how important it is.

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Let’s do it!