The Lost Art of Doing Nothing by Maartje Willems, Lona Aalders | Book Review

“The best thing about niksen is the absence of a goal. It doesn’t serve a purpose, but it’s wonderful.”

Don’t you think it’s time for a break? Plagued—as we are!—by nonstop pings and notifications, we have lost the knack of zoning out. Kicking back. Slacking off. Even when pandemic-induced lockdowns forcibly cleared our calendars, many who thought I’m free! filled their days with Netflix and doom-scrolling. How can we reclaim our free time (planned or not) to truly rest and reset?

The Dutch have it figured out: with niksen. Perhaps their best-kept lifestyle secret, niksen is the art of doing, well, nothing. It’s the opposite of productivity, and it’s incredibly good for your . . .
MIND—it makes you calmer.
BODY—it offers rest on hectic days.
CREATIVITY—it clears a space for brilliant ideas.
WALLET—it’s free!
If you’re waiting for an invitation to go lie down in the sunshine, this book is it.

46. The Lost Art of Doing Nothing

Our lives are crammed with so much to do that it leaves little-to-no time for rest. When we do set aside some time, we invariably get caught up in thinking of the next item on our to-do list or organising a drawer full of pens. Even watching a mindless comedy involves using your brain to register what is happening. Work, chats, chores, meeting friends – all of these demand time and attention and #FOMO keeps us from stepping back or cancelling plans to simple relax.

But what if you could replace #FOMO with #JOMO a.k.a. the joy of missing out?

The Dutch dictionary defines niks as a variation of niets, meaning “nothing,” so the verb niksen means “to do nothing.” The art of niksen is to not turn an activity into a purpose. You could have slipped into a state of nothingness and then bring yourself back because you remember you should be doing something useful. That unguarded moment of nothingness is niksen.

As the book explains, Niksen is, simply put, the absence of a goal. It starts and ends with nothing. Niksen is suddenly having nothing to do and not finding something new to do. Or instead of doing an activity, niksen is canceling it and replacing it with absolutely nothing at all.

A 2019 study at the Netherlands Youth Institute estimated that 4 to 8 percent of children aged eight to twelve suffer from anxiety or mood disorders. We’re so caught up in the rat race that we don’t realise the effects of our incredibly stressful lives until the damage has become irreversible.

The author elaborates on why we need to immediately replace our understanding of usefulness with doing nothing. Niksen takes practice but its effects are multifold. All it asks for is time, a calm mind and a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.

One may argue that doing nothing is boring. The cute little illustrations by Lona Aalders peppered throughout the book and the simple, practical exercises lay the foundation to finding joy in doing nothing. The purpose of this book is to avoid stress and early burnout plaguing many in their 30s and be able to live a well-balanced, relaxed life. It may take some effort but with time and skill, it can become a procedural memory, an inherent, unforgettable habit stored in our body.

The fact remains, we could all do with some niksen in our lives. All we need is to find those precious few blissful moments and learn to hold on to them.

The Lost Art of Doing Nothing: How the Dutch Unwind with Niksen by Maartje Willems, Lona Aalders (Illustrator). Translated from the Dutch by Laura Vroomen. Published in March 2021 by The Experiment.

Book 46 of 2021.

Aquamarine Flavours Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2.

Available on Amazon*.

About Photo: When it comes to excelling at doing nothing, other than the Dutch the sloths seem to have perfected the technique.
This smiling sloth is embroidered with crochet yarn on 140gsm cartridge using a prick-and-stitch pattern designed by Stitching Cards. The hand lettering is my own.

46. The Lost Art of Doing Nothingb

About the Author: Maartje Willems is a freelance journalist and writer. She works for the radio show Nooit meer slapen (Never Sleep Again) that’s broadcasted on NPO Radio 1 by the VPRO. She’s also part of the audio collective Luid en Duidelijk and previously wrote the self-help book Vanaf nu wordt alles beter (From Now on Everything Will Get Better).
She is based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
You can find with her on Instagram and Twitter.
About the Illustrator: Lona Aalders is a photographer and illustrator. She lives in a tiny house in Baambrugge and sees slow living as her personal religion. She previously authored the book Bullet Journaling: This is How You Do It! and illustrated Vanaf Nu wordt alles beter (From Now on Everything Will Get Better) for Maartje Willems.
You can find with her on Instagram.
About the Translator: Laura Vroomen is a freelance translator of Dutch into English, and specialises in both fiction and non-fiction. Following several years of teaching English Literature and Cultural Studies at Warwick University and the Open University, she retrained and spent three years as an in-house reader and translator at a media monitoring company. In 2007 she took the plunge and became a full-time freelance translator.
You can find with her on Instagram.

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*Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link which means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.


One thought on “The Lost Art of Doing Nothing by Maartje Willems, Lona Aalders | Book Review

  1. Pingback: 2021 and Changing Plans | #BrunchBookChallenge – Aquamarine Flavours

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