Why Doing Nothing Is Good for You
In favor of chilling out...especially during a heat wave.
While summer might technically be a break from school, it’s hardly a time-out from life. Whether your days are filled with actually-fun stuff like beach adventures and family vacations, or not-so-exciting things like college prep classes or part-time jobs, all those May-to-September activities overtaking your calendar can make the time disappear faster than a Mister Softee cone.
As tempting as it is to schedule out every fleeting second of freedom, there are some very real benefits to simply doing nothing. Chilling out can feel impossible, and not just because there's a heat wave currently tormenting the better part of the country. But making an effort to relax—which seems a little counterintuitive, true—is one of the best things you can do for yourself. And we're not just speaking from personal opinion (although we are doing that, too). Scientists say so!
A study published last year in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience found that taking time to turn your brain off and be alone prepares your mind to be social later. That’s why hanging out with all of your friends all the time (although fun!) can also be pretty exhausting. This makes it important to take some solo time every now and then, just to do you.
That discovery expands upon the long-legit conclusion that doing nothing helps your memory. A study in Psychological Science determined that people whose minds wandered off were, surprisingly, more likely to remember things later down the line. Daydreaming has some very real benefits—tell that to your teachers!—such as boosting creativity, memory, and open-mindedness, while reducing stress.
Even straight-up boredom isn’t bad for you. As one researcher from the University of Louisville put it, “In the absence of boredom, one would remain trapped in unfulfilling situations, and miss out on many emotionally, cognitively, and socially rewarding experiences.” Boredom opens up your mind—and while we don't recommend binge-watching Keeping Up with The Kardashians all day, it’s OK to have a completely blank schedule.
The best thing about relaxing is that anything goes. There's no right or wrong way to do it. Meditating is a time-tested way to slow down, but if deep breaths and zen mantras don't make you feel good, don't do it. Yoga counts, as long as you're going to a class light on vinyasa and heavy on restorative. (Exercise is the best for stress! But chilling out ≠ working out.) Even just sitting in your bed and watching TV, or reading a book, or listening to music, or doing absolutely nothing at all applies. It's summertime and the living is easy (er,easier...), so you should enjoy it!