5 ways to practice Niksen

What is Niksen and why is it important to combat stress

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There are many ways to deal with and moderate the stress we encounter in our daily lives. But it can be challenging to find a process that resonates with us as individuals and can happily apply to our lives. First, the Danish trend of hygge centred around being cosy at home, then lagom made its way from Sweden, which promoted ‘everything in moderation’, then the Japanese ikigai focussed on identifying your reason for being. Now we have a new kid on the block from the Netherlands: niksen.

 Niksen “literally means to do nothing, to be idle or doing something without any use,” says Carolien Hamming

Niksen might not sound as enticing as the other mindful or stress-reducing trends we have encountered. But perhaps during these difficult COVID19 pandemic times, we all need a bit of proper headspace. A time for our minds to fully relax: to be. No intention setting, no goals, just happily allowing our minds to wander where it feels it needs to go, a space without purpose — a mini-break for our minds to breathe.

I have been practising Niksen for many years. It is a practice I learnt from my mother, who is Dutch. Many a time as a child I saw her gazing out of the window and I’d ask her what she was doing, and she’d say ‘niks’ = ‘nothing’. I spend 10 minutes every day practising Niksen as I find it gives me a mental break from feeling overwhelmed, a chance to mentally rest, time for my body to reconnect with itself, and to feel calm and refreshed.   

In these modern times, we are overloaded with information and fast-paced living, so you may ask “Is there a place for Niksen?”. I say yes there is, and now more than ever.

Here are my five steps for smoothly introducing Niksen into your daily routine:

  1. Niksen can happen at any time of the day. There is no maximum or minimum time you should spend on Niksen. Somedays you may be able to plan to practice Niksen for 20 minutes, other days it might be more spontaneous and last for only a few minutes. You can use this tool to help ease you into it.
  2. No intentions required. Niksen is different from mindfulness. Rather than wanting to be present in the moment, Niksen is more about letting your mind wander rather than focusing on an action’s details. Niksen is less stressful to implement as you don’t need to prepare anything beforehand or feel guilty for not concentrating on a specific activity or thought. Niksen gives your mind a cleansing break from all structured thinking. Let your mind wander freely and feel the relaxation wash over you.
  1. Some examples of how to practise Niksen: to be considered Niksen your activity should be without a set purpose or achievement goal:

looking out of a window or at your surroundings 

listening to music

going for a walk

sitting in a chair

a semi-automatic activity such as knitting, or free-flow writing

4. You may find that the first few times of doing Niksen your mind wanders to things happening at work, and you don’t feel refreshed. Over time you can train your mind to wander creatively by going for a walk or knitting to distract you.

5. Allows your mind to start processing. Even whilst your brain is doing nothing, it is still mulling over information from your day. Niksen is also an excellent time for your brain to be creative, as many people are most creative when they are not stressed. Research has shown that happiness begets productivity, meaning there’s a link between relaxation, happiness and productivity. 

As you can see from the above steps, you may already be practising Niksen and didn’t realise it. Niksen should be part of a balanced day, as we can’t spend all day doing nothing! But giving your mind the time and space to relax, distil information from the day, and be creative, is a much-needed rest we should all be allowing ourselves to have.

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