“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
We live in a fast paced, busy society. We want everything instantly, unwilling and unable to wait due to our growing schedules. With a ‘to do’ list a mile long and every growing, any time that isn’t spent being productive feels as though it is being squandered away, leaving us feeling guilty about wasting this valuable resource. Experts are now saying that ‘wasted time’ is not only rewarding but will help promote better health!
The problem lies in our never-ending pursuit to be productive. As we focus on a specific project or deadline everything else is put to the side, including our own health and welfare. We quickly find ourselves skipping breaks, missing out on much-needed sleep and forgetting to practice self-care. The longer we continue in this dangerous cycle, the higher our stress level creeps and high stress is a huge health concern!
Stress is not only a mental and emotional health concern, but it can also impact your physical health in irreversible ways! The negative impacts of stress include, but aren’t limited to:
- Increasing the chances of dental problems and gum disease
- Making it difficult to control your emotions
- Increasing your risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease
- Premature aging
- Opening your body up to a higher chance of illness and disease
- Negatively impacting your love life
- Causing you to gain weight
Psychologist Michael Guttridge explained, “There’s an idea we must always be available, work all the time. It’s hard to break out of that and go to the park.” The result leaves many of seated in front of a website or television screen, browsing website or zoning out on social media, however, this doesn’t give us the necessary mental break. As a society, we are missing out on the importance of focusing on our own well being in ways that we have never seen before! Guttridge went on to state, “People eat at the desk and get food on the computer – it’s disgusting. They should go for a walk, to the coffee shop, just get away. Even Victorian factories had some kind of rest breaks.”
Rather than giving into the fast paced, high-stress society around us, we need to take the time to find ways to slow down, breathe and see the joy in our lives. Psychoanalyst and psychotherapist Diane Barth, L.C.S.C. created a list of suggested ways to ‘waste time’ and promote better health, including:
- Taking a 5 or 10-minute walk. If you are close enough to work to do so, walk to work! Don’t think about what all you need to do that day, instead pay attention to what you are seeing along the way.
- Meditating for 5 minutes.
- Taking a long bath or shower. If you enjoy bath products, use your favorite bubble bath, bath salts or bath bomb.
- Listen to music.
- Read something that isn’t designed to be educational or mind improving. Instead, choose something that you are reading just for fun!
- Slowly sipping a cup of tea or coffee.
- Talking about nothing important with a friend or family member on the phone.
The important point is that you find something that you can do that allows you to step away from the responsibilities of your day to day routine. Take the time to allow yourself to be completely relaxed and unplugged, and watch how much of a positive impact it can have on your overall well being! Guttridge reminds us that “Wasting time is about recharging your battery and decluttering. Taking time to be totally, gloriously, proudly unproductive will ultimately make you better at your job. But it’s also fulfilling in and of itself.”