To ease stress, and maybe save your marriage, try doing nothing

When it comes to making a healthier self and a happier family, doing nothing may be the next big thing.                                                                                                                                                                                     

TratakaOne of the hardest things for many of us (myself included) to fathom when we dedicate our careers to solving problems is that sometimes the best solution is no solution at all — just do nothing. Refraining from action can be just as vital a problem-solving strategy as taking action.

Michele Weiner-Davis, the author of Divorce Busting, offers a touching blog entry about how doing nothing helped her own marriage. And there’s the website that challenges you to do nothing for two minutes, which is harder than it sounds if you’re used to moving at a fast pace.

Best of all: Doing nothing can be surprisingly effective.

“Taking a moment to do nothing can be very centering and calming. It allows you to slow the entire experience down and get back to a place of rational thought,” says my good friend and Caldwell-Clark cofounder Aimee Zakrewski Clark, who also runs the No Stress Foundation (full disclosure: I’m on the Board of Directors at No Stress). Indeed, doing nothing can be a surprisingly useful treatment for depression, which fairly quickly improves on its own in as many as 1 in 5 untreated cases. (Naturally, if you’re experiencing depression, talk it over with a doctor or mental health professional — just keep “no treatment” on the table as an option.) And doing nothing can improve family life; the tendency for kids to be over-scheduled has been widely covered. The impact of that hyperscheduling may actually be good for kids, but at the same time, studies routinely show that families do better when they simply spend time together… even if they aren’t actually doing anything in that time.

How does one go from doing a lot to doing nothing, even if for just a few minutes a day?

“Commit to one 5-minute practice per day that invokes the nothingness. You can do a simple exercise I call Choosing Your Thoughts, which engages the breath and mind to help you do just that. As you inhale and exhale through your nose, say to yourself, ‘I am aware that I’m doing nothing,'” says Clark. “You can even add a smile, which will help you to enjoy the exercise.”

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Adding a smile will help us both enjoy your emails to me at ben[at], your posted comments, or your messages to my Twitter feed.