How To Embrace Niksen

By Olivia Emily

8 months ago

Indulge in the art of doing nothing


The Dutch have got it right with their Niksen practice which, along with Hygge, is helping to make the nation one of the happiest on the planet. Here’s exactly what it means, and how to get a piece of the action.

How To Embrace Niksen

What Is Niksen?

Niksen is a Dutch concept amounting to doing nothing – similar to the American word ‘nixing’, meaning to end or cancel something. Unlike another of our favourite lifestyle trends, bed rotting, Niksen is a stress-relief practice that aims to reduce the demands on our day-to-day life – including combatting work-related problems like stress and burnout – by very literally doing nothing: no TV, no snacking, no scrolling, nothing.

What Are The Benefits?

Niksen is intended as a stress-reliever, freeing the brain from the constant whirlwind of day-to-day life. But it is also cited as improving creativity, perhaps because the most creative people are not stressed. Likewise, research has shown that happiness begets productivity, and there is a link between relaxation, happiness and being productive. While this could be a byproduct of starting Niksen, this, of course, should not be the goal: Niksen should, by definition, begin without a goal. Everything else is a happy accident.

How To Practise Niksen

It’s simple: settle down and just exist, without feeling the need to be ‘present’. This could consist of looking around at your surroundings, listening to music or just sitting, so long as it is done without purpose and without the desire to achieve anything (other than, of course, practising Niksen). If you’re out and about, switch off the podcast in your ears and let your mind and feet wander. If you’re at home, put your phone down and see what it’s like to sit in silence for a while.

Unlike other methods of mindfulness, Niksen is all about letting your mind wander. Don’t worry too much about what you’re thinking about, or your breathing: just be.

Going on a Niksen walk

How To Do It

Start Slow

Don’t dive straight into a 20 minute Niksen session; you probably won’t last very long without itching to do something. Rather, start off with shorter periods to ease you into the nothingness. Donothingfor2minutes.com is a good place to start.

Shake Off Your Intentions

The whole point of Niksen is to do nothing, so you shouldn’t have achieved anything by the end other than relaxation. This won’t come immediately and it probably won’t feel natural on your first few goes; you’ll probably find yourself thinking about work, or conversations you’ve had (or wished you’d had, or will have). But that’s OK: Niksen gets easier and more effective the more you practise it.

Incorporate Into Daily Life

Because Niksen is about doing nothing, it doesn’t have the same time demands as traditional mindfulness, and is instead perfectly suited to snatches of time stolen throughout the day. Some examples include:

  • Going for a walk. Take out your headphones and let your mind wander
  • Listening to music. Sit back at home and listen to some music; wordless music might be best to start
  • Sitting in a chair or lying down, and simply let your mind drift
  • Practising a semi-automatic activity like knitting in Niksen-filled silence.