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Try Doing Nothing Or Enjoy 'Niksen' To Boost Your Creativity

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

See if doing nothing might do more for your creativity than actively engaging in thinking processes.

A photo of a cat lying leisurely on the chair practising Niksen to boost creativity,

For today's quick tip, I chose a concept known to the Dutch-speaking world as Niksen. Which, apparently, once translated into English, means literally 'doing nothing'.

I love using words that are foreign or made up and mean nothing to other people. It's like being a child again and using an invented language so your parents won't understand. Have you ever tried it? I spent half of my childhood annoying everyone using words I've created myself. So not a massive surprise that I went after a degree in philology, which involves studying words that no one has used for aeons.

So back to Niksen.

Niksen to boost creativity

Niksen is an act of doing nothing and being ok with it. But apparently, this is what can help us boost creativity - doing absolutely nothing! If we allow our hardworking brains to be idle, we switch on processes that free up certain reserves. It is like daydreaming, and I wrote about it here. You actively encourage your mind to do nothing and this empty mind creates something amazing in return. It gives a window of opportunity for insights to show up. It allows us to find ansqers to questions we've been struggling with and all because we do not try to force it. We do nothing. But our subciousious does all the great work.

“Dare to be idle. It is all about allowing life to run its course, and to free us from obligations for just a moment.” - Carolien Hamming

I've come across this fascinating concept while listening to Self Care Club podcast. The presenters were reading out extracts from scientific journals, discussing what they think about Niksen and trying it out in their day-to-day routine. I was surprised by how much I learned from their chat. Thank you, ladies!

Apart from an unusual sounding word, the concept itself is not new to me. I love doing nothing. And mind you, it's not about being completely and constantly idle. It's about consciously allowing your brain not to do anything.

How to use Niksen to boost creativity

We all enjoy going for walks. Let's see what happens on those purposeful or aimless wonders. Let's also create a mini quiz with 2 options to learn when Niksen happens and when we continue to actively use our brain.

Option 1 - Are you engaging in Niksen when listening to a podcast or a book on your walk?

The answer is: Not really.

Even though those are entirely amazing ways to spend your time on a walk. But those activities demand certain brain power - our brain is still active. That means we don't give it an opportunity to simply be and wonder along the pathways of its neurons and neurotransmitters.

Option 2 - Are you in Niksen when we aimlessly stroll without any distaction?

The answer is: yes.

It might sound boring, but that's exactly when Niksen happens and when our brain is free to wonder and come up with superb ideas.

If you go for a walk and enjoy the silence (or the noises of the surrounding landscape), you give your brain an opportunity to run free and recharge.

Remember Charles Dickens or Friedrich Nietzsche, those great minds? They both swore by daily walks without distraction to come up with ideas or find answers to some questions. Dickens even faimosly said in a letter to his friend: ‘if I couldn’t walk fast and far, I should just explode and perish."

I am walking a lot, through the forest, and having tremendous conversations with myself. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Aimless walking and other activities that allow our brain to be idle create special 'aha' moment when you find a solution to a problem that's been bugging you.

This phenomenon is an insight - a sudden deep understanding of something. Many of us would experience something similar in a shower - when we allow our brain to do nothing, it comes up with ideas on its own.

So next time you are about to press play on your audiobook or radio - pause - and decide to allow the silence to show you its hidden treasures. And see if you come up with new creative ideas and if your brain feels more refreshed and rejuvenated following this experience.

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