• Emily Elizabeth May

Solitude & Zen | The Importance of Doing Nothing By Yourself

It’s often a challenge to let ourselves slow down. Most of us DO have time in our day to devote to doing nothing but we simply can’t; there is always something that can be done with our time. There’s a bill to be paid, an article to be read, washing to be done, social media to catch up on and messages to reply to. The modern world is constantly connected which makes it harder to find time to yourself, and very hard to switch off and do nothing.

I strongly believe in the importance of taking a break by yourself. It is important that we dedicate some time in our days to simply do nothing. When I say “do nothing”, I mean NOTHING. Not sitting on the sofa watching TV!) Although you may think you can switch off while watching TV, you truly can’t. I’ll briefly tell you why…

Your brain has different types of brain waves, two of which are beta waves and alpha waves. Beta waves are associated with normal waking consciousness and being alert and focussed on a task. However, alpha waves are present when the mind is relaxed (and even more so when the eyes are closed.) Alpha waves are what we want our brain to access while we “do nothing.”

Alpha waves create ZEN

During daydreaming and light meditation, your brain is accessing alpha brain waves. Alpha waves direct the minds attention to itself and encourage imagination and intuitive thinking, and they are more present when we free our brain from visual stimulus. Therefore no TV!

What are some everyday examples of doing nothing?

Nothing can be described as, sitting by the window, drinking your morning coffee and staring off up into the sky.

Nothing can be, laying under a tree on a hot summers day looking up to leaves blowing in the wind.

Nothing can be watching the waves roll in at the beach and breathing in the warm salty air.
Nothing can be staring out the window of your 2-hour train journey and watching the world go by… which is probably what I should be doing right now, but instead I am on my train journey typing up this post. Hypocrite? Quite possibly, yes. But I am just confirming how hard it is to take advantage of your situation and DO NOTHING!

If I sat on this train journey now and did nothing I would probably have feelings of guilt…

So for the purpose of this post, I am going to take a pause in my writing, put my laptop away, sit by the train window and watch the blossoming countryside roll by — alpha waves — zen — …

Hola! So, I had an hour left of my train journey. I moved myself to the quiet coach (best coach ever) and I sat by the window and did nothing. It was hard putting my laptop away. I’ve been trying to find the time to write this post for a few days now and I’d finally been given the opportunity. But I’d had a long day at work, and I didn’t sleep well in my hotel last night, so really my brain could do with a break! I could benefit from some me time. So I gave myself my me time.

What do we gain?

What did I benefit from that 1 hour of ‘me time’ doing nothing?…

Inner growth – being alone and doing nothing, activating our alpha brain waves, makes us more in-tune with ourselves. We gain more knowledge about ourselves and discover our own voice and opinions.

Creative juices flow – solitude certainly leaves you plenty of time to daydream and whisk up new brilliant ideas. And we already know that alpha brain waves promote creative thinking.

See more clearly – solitude, as well as brain vacations to “Alpha Town”, can help you work through problems more easily. (Think about when people have breaks from relationships, it’s usually so they can have alone time to process their thoughts and feelings and see more clearly.)

Breathe more deeply – when in the alpha state you are most likely breathing more deeply, which lowers your heart rate and has many other health benefits.

Stress less – stress levels are substantially decreased when our alpha brain waves are activated. (This for me is a big motivator for having some alone time and finding my zen).

How to find the time?

Here are some ways you can find time in your jam-packed day to chill:

Get up slightly earlier than usual – that extra 10 minutes of sleep won’t make a difference, just get up.

Get up earlier than other people in your house – being up before everyone else when the morning is fresh is a lovely way to start the day.

Use your lunch hour at work – you don’t always need to join the group at lunch, once in a while use this time wisely, find a nice spot in the park, switch off and breathe deep.
Use your shower time – the shower is a great place to unwind, breathe deeply and get those creative juices flowing.
Disconnect from your gadgets – do not ever think of having alone time and finding your zen zone while scrolling through your Instagram feed.
To be clear, it doesn’t have to be hours of alone time in a day, just start small and go from there. Even 5 minutes can benefit you. If you are feeling so overwhelmed and you cannot find a spare 5 minutes in your day for yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The people closest to you will understand and are always there for you. You should never feel guilty for needing ‘me time’ or asking for a hand.

How to overcome the guilt? 

You should never feel guilty about spending time alone to sit on your ass and do nothing! Why? Because of all the crazy benefits that I mentioned earlier. It’s so good for your health that it will prevent you from burning out. When you burn out you are no help to yourself and others around you. And that is worse than feeling guilty! If you still need more convincing, you may want to read this post: “It’s All About Me! Putting No.1 First.”
The modern world is fast paced and constantly connected. It’s important for us to take a step back and relax so we don’t burn out. Once a day, give yourself a break. Let your brain access those ever important alpha brain waves and find your zen zone. Don’t be afraid to spend time by yourself every now and then. It’s important to be your own friend in this crazy world.
Sit back, breathe deeply, look up and enjoy today.

xx Emily

Feature image shot by @carajohnsonphotography

Emily Elizabeth May

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Emily Elizabeth May

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