The unadulterated joy of having nothing to do

Image from vintagenatgeographic.tumblr.com: Canyon Walls of Jebel Akhdar in Oman|National Geographic | September 1981

How do you spend a day off? With nothing much to work on, no-one to see and no washing to get done (OK, there’s loads of laundry shoved in your wardrobe, but you’ve run out of washing powder)? Can you even remember the last time you had literally no plans for more than a few hours or so? Allowing myself to have a day off where I embrace boredom in all its nothingness is essential to my wellbeing, so I try and do it at least once a week. Boredom may seem like a less-than-covetable state of being, but it’s a state that we often have to force ourselves to be in. So why do we find it so hard to actually enjoy free time?

We’re lucky enough to live in an age where we can very easily record, publish and post anything and everything we do on the internet: whether it be photos, thoughts, rants, or covers of Elvis Presley songs – allowing us to create our identity through showing off our skills to a large (and hopefully accommodating) audience online. In recent months, I’d forgotten how to truly be on my own, in my room, doing my dreaming and scheming and crying and sighing (I’ll stop linking to stuff that your dad would like soon, I swear) and just exist as a solo thing.

A friend of mine recently told me that instead of switching off through meditation, she likes to take time out from the white noise of the world by listening to an album all the way through, while lying on her bed, without doing anything else whatsoever.

For the past couple of Saturdays I’ve done a pretty similar thing. I’ve planned absolutely nothing to do in the day, while still waking up early(ish – before 9am anyway) to experience most of the day. No guilty trot down to the supermarket at 3pm as to “not waste the day”, no listing all those pairs of shoes on Depop because you’ve been “meaning to do it for months”. Just free time. 

After an uncomfortable hour at the beginning of the day, you could well find yourself pretty excited about all of the hours suddenly at your disposal come lunchtime. It might compel you to complete a sudoku puzzle, moisturise your entire body to within an inch of its life, or sit at your desk and commit the lyrics to Who Am I? (What’s My Name) to memory (which’ll come in handy on your next date – trust me). 

Whatever you end up doing, you’ll be pleased to discover that taking an afternoon off from delegating tasks to yourself for the sake of it actually helps you become more productive in the long run. It creates the space in your mind that’s necessary to remember how you like to fill your time without anyone else’s influence, as you allow yourself to be drawn to activities you naturally feel like doing. Remove obligations, to-do lists and Twitter timelines, and you’re faced with the option to do anything you like.

Here’s how I spent last Saturday: after slathering newly-opened No7 creams all over my face that I got last Christmas, I sat down with a notebook and wrote down the names of 10 Bruce Springsteen songs I’d quite like to learn on the guitar. I then spent the next three hours with 11 tabs open on my laptop and a guitar on my lap (the extra tab was for YouTub-ing each song to revel in how glorious the music video was). I totally wasted the afternoon, but I had so much fun doing it.

The summer is really busy for all of us, with birthday parties, weddings, barbecues and the World Cup all making us into obliging attendees of gatherings and get-togethers (often with a six-pack of Kronenburg in hand). However, during those inevitable rainy evenings or lonesome Sundays you stumble upon, try to avoid the temptation to waste away the hours continuously dragging your finger from the top to the bottom of your phone screen in search of that yearning FOMO feeling that makes you thirsty for an Aperol Spritz.

Instead, embrace those precious few hours and enjoy the space that boredom brings – you might even find yourself with a 10-track cover album comprising Bruce Springsteen’s best hits (release date TBC).

bruce bored gif.jpg

One final thing: if you’d like to listen to the latest episode of Girl Chat, all about periods (tee hee hee), you can do so here.

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