It sounds so easy: doing nothing and taking enough time to relax. However, a lot of people have a hard time relaxing. Even reading a book in the middle of the day can give you the feeling like you are doing something wrong. Because you should actually be busy and productive?
Imagine sitting down with a cup of tea, trying to relax but after three minutes you already up again. Because you suddenly remember that you still have to buy a gift for your friend’s birthday on Friday. And when you are searching on the Internet for a gift, it suddenly pops into your head that you also have to send an important mail to a particular person before the end of the week. You look at your cup of tea and you are reminded that you were taking a moment for yourself. So now you either make a half-hearted attempt to relax, or you give up and go on with the other things that sooner or later have to be done.
Feelings of guilt can play a big role in an attempt to relax. How can you “do nothing” when there are all kinds of tasks that need to be done? People may feel that they must first earn a moment for themselves. Everything must be finished before it is their turn to relax. But with a job, the household, university, and perhaps children things are never “finished”. And if you are not careful, there will never be a relaxing moment for yourself!
Il dolce far niente
The Italians even have a word for it: il dolce far niente (translation: the sweetness of doing nothing). This Italian saying became made famous because of the movie film Eat, Pray, Love by director Ryan Murphy. In this scene from the movie, two Italian men explain how the Italian idea of relaxing differs from the idea of relaxing of an average American. They explain that the American works hard all day and during the weekend. When he’s free, he can relax in his pyjamas and watch series all day. The Italian, on the other hand, can sometimes go home in the middle of the day (note: working day) for a power nap or a good cup of coffee in the local bar. In other words: the Italian sees ‘doing nothing’ as an important activity, in addition to working, cooking and having a social life. While an American sees it as a favour that he must earn.
In our busy lives, we have to do a lot. Or we often think that we have to do a lot. And it is because of all these obligations that enjoyment often comes second. For the Italians that is usually the other way around. So they see that moment of enjoyment as an important activity. When you take time for yourself, time to relax and recover, you can be more energetic, do the things that need to be done and also have the energy to spend time with others!