The Importance Of Doing Nothing

The purpose of this piece is simple. To ask that you consider taking some time to invest in simply doing nothing … what you might find though, is that doing nothing, despite helping to deliver a good night’s sleep and other health benefits is not as easy as it may seem.

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The importance of being busy.
Through the 90’s and 2000’s, doing nothing became derided. Globalisation gathered pace, no part of the world was unable to be discovered and access to information, about everything, was becoming but a click or a swipe away.

Email, surfing the web, online shopping, blogging, online dating, social media … our lives have become so online and integrated that the lines have been blurred between work and pleasure, and our lives, like our technology is becoming increasingly integrated … how do we know this? We see just how many of our orders go to work addresses, and not personal ones ;).

Tim Kreider’s infamous New York Times piece “The Busy Trap” seems to capture it best …

‘If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” … Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work.’

But fast forward, and 2020 is on our doorstep, and all of a sudden doing nothing might just be the next big thing …

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“Does screen time before bed affect your sleep?”

This is one of the most common questions Mike, my partner and co-founder, get asked. The simple answer is -

“Yes. Screen time before bed affects your sleep dramatically.”

Scientific research is continuing to reinforce this commonly held belief. Photons, the elementary particle that essentially carry light, project from your screens, through your retina and trigger a chemical reaction that prevents the production of Melatonin, the chemical that induces sleep. The less Melatonin produce, the less likely you are to fall asleep … easy concept.

But it’s not just screen time that affects sleep. Our brains and minds are wired constantly these days. When was the last time you sat back and simply did nothing? Not watching TV, not conversing, not eating or drinking, not thinking about the past or the future and not getting lost in thought (and then snapping back into the present, only to judge your thoughts)?

For many of us, we don’t think about doing nothing. We are often lost in thought. In fact a recent Harvard study found that people spend 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy …

We can’t find the time to do nothing. But increasingly, the benefits of doing nothing, but focussing on the present (think mindfulness or meditation) is proving to be an important part of strong mental health and ensuring a good nights sleep.

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Alvar Aalto Studio in Helsinki

The studio was completed for use by Alvar Aalto’s architect’s office in 1955. The white rendered brick building is in Munkkiniemi in Helsinki, within walking distance of Aalto’s home.

The 1950s were a decade of public building in Finland. A great many architectural competitions were organized and Aalto won a number of them. The office needed more space. “You can’t create architecture in an office environment,” is how Aalto described working in an architect’s office. He designed a free-form studio wing for the building, and a drawing room using natural light. The building curves around a stepped, amphitheatre-style courtyard sheltered from the wind. The courtyard amphitheatre serves as an auditorium, and the opposite white concrete wall as a projection screen, if necessary.

After Alvar Aalto's death in 1976, design work continued in the building under Elissa Aalto's (Alvar Aalto's second wife) leadership. Uncompleted projects were finished off and renovations planned for Aalto's buildings. Alvar Aalto Architects Ltd finally ceased operations in 1994. Nowadays, the studio building is open to the public and houses the office of the Alvar Aalto Museum

Many of Aalto’s best-known works were designed here at the Studio with over 20 persons working in the office. Vezio Nava, one of the architects who used to work at the Studio Aalto, describes the studio life with the following words: "Usually he [Aalto] walked between the tables, stopping here and there, or invited some colleague to go and sit with him in the atelier to ponder some work." Aalto was dressed in a classic way, and was always with a pocket full of at least four or five 6B pencils. Nava tells that Aalto "regularly forgot the pencils on our tables during his rounds, and the secretary then went to pick them up to return to him."

There are public guided tours of the Studio throughout the year. Alvar Aalto's experimental light fittings and pieces of furniture are on permanent display. The studio serves as a perfect venue for exhibitions and events. Outside, walk around the building and glimpse the courtyard – you may even sit down and sketch in the garden. Check AALTOsites app for other Aalto-designed buildings in Helsinki region!

Images via joelix.com