You’d expect a Yoga and meditation teacher to push mindfulness. After all, that’s the big buzzword right now, the Thing We Should All Be Doing, kale for the brain and soul. That’s all true, too. Mindfulness lowers stress and blood pressure and improves memory, among other benefits. It teaches us how to mono-task instead of multi-task, which keeps the brain from burning out. It’s especially important for the children in your life. So yes, by all means, be mindful! And then make time to be mindless.
What? Be mindless? Isn’t that counter to the Things We Should All Be Doing? Not really. There are good reasons to make room for mindlessness in our days. It’s just that mindlessness doesn’t sound good from a spiritual public relations standpoint, and we’ve forgotten how to do it.
Let’s tackle those issues with the reasons why we should occasionally allow ourselves to engage in mindlessness—but a specific type. As children, we had time and space to daydream. We were allowed to doodle aimlessly, and to hum or sing while we did it. We could stare out a window and make up stories about what was happening outside. We could invent imaginary friends and have imaginary tea with them. We could investigate a spider’s web, then go pick up a stick and turn it into a magical instrument. In this daydreamy space, our child minds had a chance to process events in our lives, and our imaginations could grow.
Today, we’ve become a culture that places a high value on doing and achievement. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, almost every moment is packed with things to do and reasons to do them. They’re valuable things, they’re exciting, they’re good for us. But they’re all doing, doing, doing. There’s not much space for just being.
The result is constant busyness that leads to a desire for the spaciousness of some mindless, non-taxing (in)activity. But, like a dieter going on a cake binge, overwhelm leads us to engage in what seems like mindlessness but is also a form of doing: going online. That results in comparing your life to others’ and to taking in the seeds advertisers plant so you’ll buy stuff. It’s not true mindlessness.
Healthy mindlessness is doing something that has no immediate goal and doesn’t have much input, but that allows your thoughts to wander. With healthy mindlessness, you may come to decisions you’ve found difficult to make because of over-thinking; you may have realizations about things you hadn’t noticed; you let your imagination take a little walk. Or you just let your brain rest and recharge.
It’s not easy to just sit down and be mindless on command, though. Mindlessness isn’t, after all, a mindful activity. But we can get back into the groove. Remember, we knew how to do mindlessness as children. The trick is engaging in an uncomplicated activity that has no immediate goal so your thoughts can float around. Here are some lightweight activities that will help you be more mindless:
Cooking. Not a difficult new recipe or anything too complex, but something you can make on autopilot. You may enjoy what you’re doing, but the point here is to let one part of your brain deal with the mechanics and the rest to wander. Making bread is a good option because it’s a lot of working the dough, and not many ingredients. (Check out a few Grok Nation recipes here.)
Coloring. Why was the coloring craze so popular that there was a danger of a worldwide color pencil shortage? Coloring brings us back to childhood mindlessness, which is relaxing. Go get you a coloring book (we love this one from Paper Source) and some pencils (the shortage is over).
Knitting. My ultimato, favorito method of mindlessness. Easy projects like scarves and baby blankets are a great way to zone out. Add the soft fuzzy tactile sensations of yarn and you’re in mindless hygge heaven. Don’t know how to knit? There are countless “Learn to Knit” kits, like this one from Amazon.
Cleaning. Usually the bane of everyone’s existence, but hear me out: Don’t approach this as cleaning your entire home. Pick one small thing—a bathroom, your motorcycle—and give it a tidying up. Folding laundry is another good one; just don’t be too mindful about it.
Walking. Active in that you have to put one foot in front of another and watch out for traffic and coyotes; inactive in that you can do this fairly mindlessly. No cardio, and leave your FitBit at home, please; just walk.
With any mindless activity, you have to let the phone rest, too. The great part of these is that you won’t get bored doing any of them, so you probably won’t feel the need to check Instagram every five minutes. As for how long to be mindless, that’s up to you and your schedule. This kind of healthy mindlessness can be addictive, so just, um, be mindful of your time.