The Notion of Sweet Nothing
Well — it’s the week of Christmas — and you’d think we’d be busy checking off that grocery list and Sandi would be sending me out on a strategic gift buying mission. But, we’re still square in the middle of a Pandemic and we’re doing — what most of you reading this blog are probably doing — weighing the upside and downside, costs and benefits, of traveling or not traveling to see family this Christmas holiday.
And to add to matters, a December 18th Forbes article, titled “Covid-19 Alert: The 10 Riskiest States to Visit Over Christmas, Ranked” reports that three of the states that our Grands live in; Indiana, Oklahoma & Tennessee are in the top ten riskiest to visit over the Christmas Holidays. If this was the season of peace and joy…it could now be deemed, ‘The season to be extremely careful if you’re planning to travel for Christmas!’
Still, roughly 84.5 million Americans are expected to travel from December 23 to January 3, according to a report from AAA. While that’s down by about 34 million travelers from last year, public health experts are recommending against travel at this time¹.
“The CDC continues to recommend postponing travel and staying home, as this is the best way to protect yourself and others this year,” according to recent winter holiday guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a December 14th post titled, “Holidays and Stress”, the CDC maps out how to do what’s best for you and your loved ones this Holiday Season².
Take Care of Yourself
Being away from family and friends during the holidays can be hard.
When you talk with your friends and family about plans, it’s okay if you decide to stay home and remain apart from others.
Do What’s Best for Your Household
Doing what’s best for you includes eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep.
Take care of your body and stay active to lessen fatigue, anxiety, and sadness.
Spend Time with Those in Your Household
Hard choices to be apart this year may mean that you can spend many more years with your loved ones.
Do what is best for your health and the health of your loved ones. This year spend time with those in your own household.
It makes one wonder if and when we actually do get to celebrate the Holidays — will we actually be able to relax? In an INC. article, “Forgot What It Feels Like to Relax? Try This Science-Based Practice for Dissolving Stress” the question is posed, “Do we now live in a world that seems to have forgotten how to relax?”
At work, we rush from one meeting to the next. We fill the breaks and gaps in our day to catch up on emails and texts. And we’re committed to complete all the items on our to do list by the end of the day, and most days fall short. And yet most of the things we do to take the edge off the day keep us stimulated and caught in this "always on" state: social media surfing, binge watching Netflix shows, and catching up on texts and emails.
The result is that our brain and nervous system live in a perpetual state of being in gear. And we never give ourselves the opportunity to truly relax. Neuroscientists have a name for this high frequency, "always on," brainwave state. It's called the Beta state. And this Beta state has a powerful, self-sustaining, momentum to it. It's a lot like a fly wheel: once it gets going, it's almost impossible to stop³.
So how do we enter this state of ultra-deep relaxation in the midst of life's craziness? Here's how you can do it yourself whenever you feel stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. Just 5 to 10 minutes of this practice can radically shift the trajectory of your day.
1. Lie down. You know the best part of a yoga class — that final 5 to 10 minutes where you get to lie down on your back and just relax — that's the practice of yoga nidra. There's only one difference: in this practice, we skip the 45 minutes of strenuous yoga poses and go straight to the meditative dessert.
2. Lengthen your exhale. To do this, you can use a simple breath ratio: inhale four counts, exhale eight counts. Remember to stay relaxed. Never force the breath. And, if you want to try out an advanced version of the practice, insert a pause for four seconds at the end of each exhale.
3. Let everything go. If you're like most people, you have about a thousand different nudges, emails, texts, and to dos swirling in your mind during every waking moment. This practice gives you a rare opportunity to let all of that go, even if only for a few minutes. So, after spending a few minutes inducing the relaxation response with the 4:8 breath, let go. Drop any effort to shape or control the breath. See if you can enjoy this rare opportunity to do absolutely nothing and relax.
If this isn’t enough to bring on the Christmas Nirvana, let’s try what the Italians simply call — la dolce far niente — the art of doing sweet nothing. I first ran across this phrase while reading an onboard magazine, The Holland Herald, while onboard a Holland America cruise ship with Sandi & the family⁴.
This notion of doing sweet nothing can be described as Italians may wonder home after a few hours of working to take a little nap, they may be inspired by a nearby cafe and sit down to have a glass of wine, or they may just go home and make love to their wife. The idea that “doing nothing” is actually an event in and of itself.
How different would our quality of life be if we made time throughout the day to experience la dolce far niente? That kind of relaxation. The la dolce far niente. The sweetness of doing nothing and enjoying where we are in the present moment — is the greatest thanks we can give for the lives and blessings we have⁵.
What if this Christmas — instead of social media, emailing, binge watching, or video gaming — we just did nothing? Maybe we take time to read a book. Maybe we sit quietly reflecting or listen to our favorite music. Maybe take time to do some of our favorite things, or even — gasp — nap? What can we do today, to begin doing sweet nothing? La dolce far niente?
What if this Christmas — we slow down enough — to really enjoy the people, places & things that actually make up all that matters most in our Christmases? What if the key is really inside each of us?
Dr. James Earl Massey, in a 1971 Warner Press publication, titled Christmas poses the ultimate Christmas question:
Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you, to ignore what the world owes you, to think what you owe the world? To put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground? To see that your fellowmen are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy?
To close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness — are you willing to do these things even for a day?
Then — you can keep Christmas. Are you willing to believe love is the strongest thing in the world — stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death — and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago is the image and brightness of the eternal love?
Then you can keep Christmas. And if you keep it for a day, why not always?⁶
At CONIZO, we believe living well is both an art and a science — not either/or. Using both personal experience and data-driven metrics, intuition and detailed research, story and facts, Conizo hopes to provide you with both the method and story to live life well.
This Christmas — this most unusual of Christmases — let’s take the time to really enjoy the things that really matter. Do stop by our website and follow along with our CONIZO exclusive; Someday, An Advent Daily Devotional with guest writer Sandi Patty. Peruse our online gift store as there’s a little something for everyone on your Christmas list!
Thanks for stopping by this season and from all of us at CONIZO…a very Merry Christmas!
Live Life Well!
The CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/coping-holiday-stress.html
The Holland Herald, https://www.holland-herald.com/archive/
Psychology Today, The Art of Doing Nothing, Colleen Long, Psy.D., https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-happiness-rx/201409/the-art-doing-nothing
Christmas, Dr. James Earl Massey, Copyright 1971 by Warner Press, Inc. Anderson, IN.