How Being Idle Pampers Our Brain


I finished preparing all the required documents I needed to submit for my retirement, claims for death and survivorship benefits, and clearing the tax liabilities of my late husband. And that was it. No more self-imposed deadlines to meet.

So I’ve decided to spend a few days tolerating idleness.

As I was sitting at the entrance of the school owned by our family and selected friends, I watched carefully the construction workers doing the upgrade of the school grounds. At the end of the day, I felt overworked doing nothing.

My envious feelings for people in the barrios just sitting on benches along the alleys with their neighbors and chatting, clueless of what to eat next, was suddenly wiped out. What a hard way to spend the day, I realized.

Essayist Tim Kreider of The New York Times wrote that idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as Vitamin D to the body, and deprived of it, we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.

Having been a workaholic for the last thirty-nine years, my only relaxation is reading, cooking and some brief chats with friends. These did not in any way give my brain a downtime.

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang and her co-authors had these arguments about downtime:

  • When we are resting, the brain is anything but idle and that far from being purposeless or unproductive, downtime is in fact essential to mental processes that affirm our identity, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill an internal code of ethics processes that depend on the DMN (Default Mode Network).
  • Downtime is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved lessons in our lives and to swivel its powers of reflection away from the external world toward itself.
  • By treating ourselves with idleness, we become more productive. Our capacity to be more attentive is increased. Our memories become more vivid. Our creativity is enhanced.

I see the contrast why I experienced too much fatigue by doing lazy things that day. The moments I spent was focused on the negative thoughts. I figured out that working in construction is power intensive. Instead of using my idle moments thinking how the school can attract more enrollees with the improvements being introduced, I dealt more on the heavy load of workers.

Using our imagination while relaxing allows us to do performance reviews of ourselves. This allows us to ask how we treated others recently. What are the things we did right? What are the things we did wrong? What changes do we have to introduce to correct our faults?

I thank the social media for providing a wide array of information. One that got my interest was on meditation. This gave me time to make reflections before I sleep and before I get up the following morning. It is never too late. I have achieved the level of happiness I didn’t experience when I was still working in a tax administration organization.

Looking at the scene of some of the persons I envied for being relaxed in their lives, I now believe that the absence of worry in their mind attracts blessings but only up to the limits of what they wanted for the day.

Being idle pampers our brain by allowing it to process the stored data in our mind. Just like writing blogs, the brain needs concentration to make recommendations to its host body on how to be productive and abundant in life.

Let us pamper our brain with idleness. I consider it as a spa treatment.