“In itself, idleness is by no means a root of all evil, but on the contrary an almost divine life, as long as one is not bored.” Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher (1813-1855)

 Idleness, that is, consciously switching off, is like getting enough exercise, just as healthy as a balanced diet and our six to eight hours of sleep. When we are idle we support our mind and brain. By incorporating breaks, but also activities that concentrate our concentration over a longer period of time, into our everyday lives, we reduce stress, process information better and learn more effectively.

The vortex of the acceleration society

Attempts to relax and slow down in an “acceleration society” often fail, according to sociologist Hartmut Rosa. On average, Germans have 3 hours and 56 minutes of free time. Young people in particular fill at least half of this time with media consumption on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc. (GfK study, 2014) Working people are finding it increasingly difficult to take a break from work. Time with family and friends, hobbies or dinner dates, activities that should actually be fun are often perceived as leisure stress. If feelings of time pressure and hectic pace also accompany your free time, you will feel exhausted and burnt out in the long run.

Revival of idleness

This makes a revival of idleness all the more important. Turn off the screens and simply exercise your “right to be lazy” in turbulent times. ( The Right to Be Lazy , Paul Lafargue, 1883.)

As Søren Kierkegaard writes, idleness doesn't have to be boring, but it still helps the brain to switch off, regenerate, reduce stress and come up with new ideas. Because new ideas only arise if you don't force or plan them. This is how Isaac Newton came up with the brilliant idea for his theory of gravity while pensively looking at an apple in his orchard at home.

The philosopher René Descartes had his best thoughts in the morning when he got up. He pondered his dreams and solved puzzles in his head.

However, Newton and Descartes had the advantage of living in a slower, less mobile time without cars, airplanes and digital media. Terms like “slowing down” or “digital diet” only become more important in the 21st century, over 300 years later.

Three deceleration strategies for vacation in your head

  1. Deceleration through a digital diet

The constant use of smartphones and PCs makes you sick, says Alexander Markowetz, author of the book “Digital Burnout” (Markowetz, 2015). Research at his institute has shown that smartphone users activate their screens 88 times a day. 35 of these times they briefly glance at the clock. They access apps or write emails and messages 53 times a day. On average, they stop what they are doing every 18 minutes to look at their cell phone. On average, users use their smartphones for two and a half hours a day.

However, these are not real breaks because you don't switch off, but on the contrary: the constant interruption fragments our attention.

This leads to shorter attention spans and concentration deteriorates.

Constant availability and interaction wears us out in the long run. Mental illnesses are also symptoms of digitalization, says Alexander Markowetz.

It's difficult to keep your hands off your cell phone. We happily await messages from friends on social networks. However, we have to incorporate digital diets into our everyday lives, put away or switch off our cell phones, concentrate on one thing for longer, for example reading a book, and realize that even outside the digital world our friends are waiting for us who would like to have real conversations with us.

  1. Deceleration through tours in the city and nature

Most Germans spend their free time at home, as a study by the Society for Consumer Research shows. Activities outside the home are rarer and take place mainly on weekends, (party) evenings are usually spent between household, family and television (see GfK study, 2014). Why not put on the flâneur's attire in the evening after work and stroll through the city for half an hour? The flâneur is a literary character who roams the streets and passages of cities and drifts through the crowds. He observes people and places. This provides impulses for reflection, provides material for storytelling and promotes new thoughts and ideas.

On weekends, longer tours on foot or by bike in the countryside or in the mountains can also be undertaken to focus concentration. True to the motto “the journey is the destination”, you change your mind and practice consistently pursuing a goal away from noise and smog.

During such tours, the brain can be active in idle mode in order to process what has been learned or experienced and the synapses can be reorganized accordingly.

  1. Deceleration through time for yourself

Time with family, children, parents, meeting old friends means relaxation. Many people like to spend their free time with people who are important to them. They often forget about themselves. This makes such appointments stressful in the long run because the mind also needs time alone to recharge creatively and come up with new ideas. Creativity teacher Julia Cameron recommends setting off alone once a week without a companion to gather creative impulses. This weekly meeting with yourself doesn't have to take long and cost nothing, what's important is that it happens. It can lead to a street café, a knick-knack shop, an art exhibition or a movie. The hours you free up are time for yourself, in which you can spontaneously follow your impulses and come across unexpected things. In these moments, time pressure and hectic rush disappear and you regain the feeling of being able to shape your own time. Experiences outside the usual can inspire and also positively enrich conversations with family and friends.

As Kierkegard writes, stepping on the brakes and taking leisure time leads to an “ almost divine life.” Integrating idleness into everyday life costs nothing and is definitely beneficial for your mental health.


Julia Cameron: The Artist's Path.

Ulrich Schnabel: The rediscovery of leisure. At

Ulrich Schnabel: Leisure takes time. At

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