The Art of Doing Nothing

Art by Aryanne Westfall

The Art of Doing Nothing

by Aasiyah Adnan

Like any self-respecting teenager, when I first discovered this problem, I immediately did some googling. I found that the answer, unexpectedly, is boredom. It may seem counterintuitive but being bored fosters imagination. By allowing your mind to wander, you open the door to less obvious solutions—or in other words, creativity.

SCL Health points out that due to the prevalence of technology in our lives, we are connected all day, every day. Instead of giving ourselves a chance to get bored, we busy ourselves with some other diversions (in my case, endlessly scrolling on Instagram). Not only that, but the acceleration in human productivity due to the improvements in technology bolsters the idea that all time must be spent doing something. A Live Science article written by Simon Gottschalk states that doing nothing is “equated with waste, laziness, lack of ambition, boredom or ‘down’ time.” As such, it is difficult to give ourselves the opportunity to do nothing. 

However, the benefits are worth the initial discomfort. First and foremost, boredom helps foster creativity. Research done by Dr. Sandi Mann with the University of Central Lancashire found that “undertaking a boring task might help with coming up with a more creative outcome.” Boredom allows the mind to explore options instead of jumping to the first solution presented. It also serves as a check-in for emotions and mental wellbeing. Constant distractions in the way of work or entertainment mean we ignore important emotions or gut feelings. Allowing ourselves to do nothing gives us the ability to manage our mental and emotional states.

Boredom may seem to be the antithesis of productivity, but it helps to consider these breaks as a way to replenish our energy. A New York Times article by Tim Herrera states, “Your brain is a muscle and it gets tired, so running it nonstop without letting it rest hurts your ability to stay on task.” While it may seem wrong to pause for nothing, by giving ourselves the time to relax mentally, we are more prepared and able to tackle the work ahead.

Doing nothing is a mindful task. In order to value your time with your mind even more, a New York Times article by Olga Mecking says to “take conscious, considered time and energy to do activities like gazing out of a window or sitting motionless.” Other activities could be tasks such as showering, going on a walk, or meditating—anything that is generally mindless and allows for the mind to wander. The idea is to take the break we need to reflect and just be.

I’m not quite there yet to writing how I used to, and the blank screen of my Notes app continues to frustrate me. But I can feel the traces of plotlines forming and half-developed characters just waiting to meet me. When it comes to creativity and imagination, doing a little more of nothing might just be everything.

About Aasiyah Adnan

Aasiyah Adnan is a senior at Dunlap High School. She is dedicated to community involvement on multiple levels. At school, she is academically competitive in her classes, a cross country/track captain, varsity runner (IHSA State qualifier in 2018 and 2019), Madrigals performer, speech captain and varsity performer (IHSA State qualifier in 2020), Scholastic Bowl varsity player, and Best Buddies officer. Aasiyah is also the Dunlap Student Body President and a part of Twelve Eagles, a student group focused on bridging the gap between the student body and administration. She focuses on ensuring that the student voice is heard and has spoken out at school board meetings about student mental health. She is currently in the process of starting the Muslim Student Association at Dunlap, and she hosted the first Global World Hijab Day in recent memory last school year. In the community, Aasiyah is active in her local mosque and volunteers at the Sunday School. She has been a Girl Scout for twelve years and is currently working on her Gold Award project on Muslim representation and resources at Dunlap. Since January 2019, Aasiyah also volunteers weekly at Córdoba Health Care, a free specialty clinic in Peoria that provides care to the uninsured.

About Aryanne Westfall

Aryanne “Ary” Westfall is a sophomore at Bradley University majoring in Animation and minoring in Theatre Arts. She is pursuing a career as a storyboard artist and enjoys creating graphic novels in her free time. As a member of the Digital Art Team, Westfall spends her time connecting with other artists and creating as much as she can.