Myth: Much Ado About Nothing

I came across this article, ‘Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime’, from Scientific American Mind.  It reviews research in the USA as well as in Europe and Australia with regards to naps, meditation, mindfulness, etc. and the benefits from all this ‘doing nothing’.  Warning: it is a bit long.

9 thoughts on “Myth: Much Ado About Nothing

  1. Hey,
    I’ve only just started reading it and had to stop and comment on this sentence: “Throughout history people have intuited that such puritanical devotion to perpetual busyness does not in fact translate to greater productivity and is not particularly healthy.” YES,YES,YES, I see this around me all the time. (I’m going to finish reading the article – back in a bit 😉 xx


    • Hi Kara,
      So true, I love it when I ask ‘How are you?’ to someone and then I get a long list of what they have done.
      The part about mind-wandering and replaying conversations or practicing standing up for ourselves – it was like someone was writing this for ACoNs. ;).
      Curious to hear further thoughts. xxoo TR


      • Hi TR,
        I loved the article, and it is so helpful to me to understand what I have been going through over the last few weeks. I realise exactly what you meant when you said to me about our ” body physically dealing and adjusting to the changes we are making”. The article explains so well how this process takes place. It makes a lot of sense. Made me think that whenever I’ve had similar “slumps” in the past, they’ve always led to big changes in my life afterwards. I guess a good way to put it is that if you were on the underground but wanted to change your destination you’d have to get off that train and change to a different line, in the meantime -while you’re waiting for the other train- it would look like you’re not “moving along” much, when in fact you are. I’m so glad you found the article and shared it.
        There is so much on it to discuss. One part that I really liked is this: “downtime is in fact essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill an internal code of ethics—”
        “Downtime is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved tensions in our lives and to swivel its powers of reflection away from the external world toward itself. While mind-wandering we replay conversations we had earlier that day, rewriting our verbal blunders as a way of learning to avoid them in the future.”
        I have always been one to go away after an experience and think about what happened, why it happened and how I could manage it better next time. I found it comforting that the article acknowledges that this process takes time, and it can only be done if we stop running around being busy all the time. I think the title you chose for the post is perfect, because with a lot of this really “busy” people, when you look at their actual performance, they don’t accomplish much. I used to have a friend that if I popped in for a coffee, she would not sit down (my sister is like this too), they’re forever moving around the kitchen like bees, but the thing that struck me with this friend is that, despite all her busyness, her house never looked any tidier. So yes, it’s so true that these types are “much ado about nothing”.

        Kara xxoo


      • Hi Kara,
        I’m so glad you liked it; you articulate well how it translates into our recovery process. Dealing with difficult people requires downtime, a period of reflection. I often do this too and I used to berate myself a bit because I would feel like I would over analyse a situation. And that this was the problem, not the fact the problem was with the interactions I was having with people. It helped me validate my need to do so after an unpleasant interaction.

        At the same time I saw this article I was reading Emotions Revealed by Ekman and he discussed moods vs. emotions. And he distinguishes the two – emotions pass through us quickly and they serve an evolutionary purpose. He couldn’t really explain an evolutionary reason for moods. If we are in an irritable mood we become prone to more anger, a blue mood ready to become sad. He also mentions that the causes of mood can be dense emotional experiences. So, if we undergo repeated small bouts of emotions we can have a mood later. I can relate because after an FOO visit I need about a week or two to recover because I haven’t let all the emotions pass through and the emotional experiences were continuously coming at me (anger, shame). Since we (some ACoNs) haven’t learned to deal with emotions (recognise, label them, deal with them) emotional experiences are dealt with in moods. The emotional experiences when dealing with people who behave narcissistically is very dense – coming at you, when in reality when we interact with ‘normal’ people we may in fact go through very few emotions. We aren’t constantly in a flow of emotions. The article showed me that even when we may be able to handle it all (emotions healthily) we need the time to process it all. This downtime can give us an opportunity to not prolong moods or slumps that would ultimately affect our productivity in the long run.

        I can really relate to your story about busy bees. I know a lot of people who ‘glorify busy’ and worse, shame others for it (narcs). In Skynner and Brené Brown books they allude to the fact that busy bees are masking depression (emotions not dealt with). It is an interesting thought.

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, it made me connect some the info I have been reading.



  2. This is part if why I love running so much. I joke that I get “stupid” when I run because I can barely count when doing it, but what happens us that my head empties of all the bullshit bothering me. Tension goes away. My attitude improves. I don’t know how that affects my productivity, but it sure helps me focus on what’s important.


    • Hi PV,
      Great point – exercise is a form of mindfulness – it is ultimately giving us ‘me’ time in every sense. It would seem productivity increases from the studies – it is very hard to measure, it seems. But who cares, we feel better from it. ;). xxoo


  3. Funny how Kara wrote about books finding her when she needed the information within. Your post showed up when I was in the middle of the madness of editing. I put my life on hold and work for hours with very little sleep until it’s done. I can’t keep doing this, and the article you shared explains why. I don’t have time to process. My anxiety skyrockets. I spend too much time noodling about what I’m going to say to stand up for myself, but haven’t done it so far. Today, this changes. Now to do it with professionalism. And there comes in that mind-wandering to work through what you’d say differently. Thanks for sharing this TR!


  4. Pingback: Crazy Busy | In Bad Company


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