Review Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing – Olga Mecking

The Dutch people are some of the happiest in the world. Their secret? They are masters of niksen, or the art of doing nothing.

Niksen is not a form of meditation, nor is it a state of laziness or boredom. It’s not scrolling through social media, or wondering what you’re going to cook for dinner. Rather, to niks is to make a conscious choice to sit back, let go, and do nothing at all.
With this book, learn how to do nothing in the most important areas of your life.

Many an off-day my (not-Dutch) friend would text me asking what I was up to, to which my answer would be ‘nothing’. And almost every time he would tell me to get of my lazy ass (after which I would inform him there is absolutely nothing wrong with my ass).

And then I saw this book on Netgalley and I just Had to read it. Because 1) I liked confirmation that I am not lazy, 2) I like to read/hear/see how other countries see us Dutchies, 3) how can one write 250 pages about doing nothing, and 4) if this doing nothing could make me happy, I needed to more about it.

And so I started this book. And foremost, Olga can definitely write. She has a very pleasant ‘voice’, making this an incredibly easy, accessible and just fun book. And sure, there were parts I couldn’t relate to. I don’t have kids, I don’t work in an office, … and still she managed to make even those paragraphs interesting.

However, I couldn’t quite connect to it. I spend a lot of the book thinking ‘yes, but…’. And that but was answered about 70% into the book. Because, the main reason I do nothing isn’t because I am taking a break. It is because I cannot motivate myself to get out of bed, so am just staring at the ceiling counting down the time till it is acceptable to go back to sleep. Until I inevitably have to go and take a piss.

Niksen is ‘doing something without a purpose’, allowing your mind to wander. It isn’t watching a movie, scrolling on Facebook, procrastinating, mindfulness or emotional labor. And guess what, the last thing I want on those days is for my mind to go wandering about. And luckily Olga says: ‘Just like any other trend, niksen may not work for everyone. [It] is simply not a good idea in some circumstances.’ One of those circumstances is being depressed, burnt-out, down, unmotivated (to get out of bed).

So, did I just read a book that book for nothing? Well, no… For one, I really liked the chapter about Dutch culture and send so many screenshots of it to my (not-Dutch) husband. Two, I won’t be down forever. I hope. So even though this book isn’t applicable to me now, it still made me aware of a ‘tool’ I could use in future. Three, the cheats.

Not everyone can just go and do nothing. So Olga showed us some things we can do whilst doing nothing, things that don’t take much thinking capacity, cheating our brain. Like listening to music, creating something (colouring, puzzling, knitting), and going for a walk. And guess what, I already do the later two… whilst listening to my audiobooks. So maybe there is hope yet for this Dutchie to one day master the Art of Doing Nothing.

13 thoughts on “Review Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing – Olga Mecking

  1. This sounds like a neat book and a neat concept. True, maybe not for everyone all the time. But I do think that we (especially here in America, from what I’ve seen) put too much emphasis on being productive and active all the time.

    Also, good to know about the cheats. I do often use knitting a lot as a way to “do something while doing nothing” — depending on the pattern it’s a mindless activity for me — so I guess I’m already doing that, too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! She talks a lot about how in our Western society being busy is seen as a desirable thing, and peer pressure makes us all constantly busy. And where in other cultures this may be less the case, they stil have massive family or religious obligations, still not giving people a chance to just take a break.

      And sounds like you are already doing it yeah. Its about letting your mind do whatever it wants, daydream I guess.


      1. I guess I can pat myself on the back for being ahead of the times? 😉 I hope more people—and people in power—in Western societies can recognize the importance of being *not* busy. It’s huge for mental health.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Nope 😋😔 It requires too much brain focus. Niksen is all about letting your mind go wherever it wants to go, daydream I guess. It’s why one ‘always’ has great ideas in the shower or just before you fall asleep.
      But it’s difficult and not nice to start with. People rather experience something painful than to have to do nothing. So we distract ourselves, with our phones, or in my case with audiobooks.

      Liked by 1 person

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