Niksen: The Dutch Lifestyle Trend That Celebrates Doing Absolutely Nothing

Just what Sunday ordered.

Now another Northern European trend is being embraced as a way to combat our increasingly busy and often stressful lives: niksen.

Niksen is the antidote to the always-on life many of us lead – because it literally refers to ‘engaging in the valued art of doing nothing’.

Niksen literally means to do nothing, to be idle or doing something without any use. Practicing niksen could be as simple as just chilling out, looking at your surroundings or listening to music — as long as it’s without purpose and not done in order to achieve something or be productive.

Think “simply sitting in a chair or looking out of the window,” says Ruut Veenhoven, a sociologist and professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands who studies happiness. Whereas mindfulness is about being present in the moment, niksen is more about carving out time to just be, even letting your mind wander rather than focusing on the details of an action.

“We should have moments of relaxation, and relaxation can be combined with easy, semi-automatic activity, such as knitting,” Veenhoven says.

“One aspect of the ‘art of living’ is to find out what ways of relaxing fit you best.” There’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach; rather, you’ll discover which behaviours are most effective for you through trial and error, he adds.

How you partake in niksen is up to you, and the joy of being idle is a very personal thing, so it’s unlikely that you’ll relish doing nothing in the same way as a friend.

However, for many, doing nothing isn’t as simple as it sounds. In fact, it can be somewhat challenging to sit still and stare out a window, for instance.

Taking a few minutes each day to practice niksen (some recommend using this resource for accountability) will allow you to dare to be idle and work up to bigger stretches of alone time. If all else fails – you can just lie down and snooze. 

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