There is a saying in Italy that goes, dolce far niente…the sweetness of doing nothing.
What is exceptionally ironic about me sharing this saying, or perhaps more accurately, this Italian way of life, is before I committed to this topic, I was going to write a list of “ten ways to re-energize yourself when you’re feeling unproductive”.
The more I gathered ideas for productivity, the more boring and exhausting I realized the topic was. Everywhere I searched, there was a blog post on how to live your most productive life or how to cross the most items off of your to-do list during your every waking moment of the day. Ugh.
After reading five posts on different ways to get more of life done, I was over it.
That’s when I remembered what my Australian best friend, Deanna, recently shared with me over Facetime: dolce far niente.
Admittingly, I had never heard of this saying, however, I have experienced it. I have experienced it so much so that I can feel the butterflies flutter in my traveling obsessed heart when I reflect on my days spent in Italy. My days watching so many Italians find the sweetness of doing nothing.
Let that sink in.
When was the last time you found sweetness in doing nothing?
No guilt attached. No internal nagging. Zero anxiety about items left undone on your to-do list.
The concept of doing nothing, and gasp, enjoying doing nothing can be trying at times. Only a day ago I was relaxing in my kiddie pool in the back yard reading my paper (as far as I can tell I was doing dolce far niente correctly) when out of no where I was struck with panic as I realized I was doing “nothing” for a few minutes during a Monday.
But was I really doing “nothing”? I was reading, learning, and enjoying the sun on my skin during a hot summer day. What’s to panic about that?
In American culture, we are wired to work. To not sit still for rest and if we do, to almost feel guilty about doing so. It’s no wonder we don’t have a beautiful café culture like so many parts of the world do – we can’t sit still long enough to enjoy it.
Our culture is the take it to-go coffee culture cause that’s what we are, on the go.
If you’ve ever been to Italy you have seen and most likely experienced a dose of dolce far niente. I believe in my heart that one of the best experiences in life is sitting in an Italian piazza watching the world happen around you while sipping on an Aperol spritz.
I’m not going to sugar coat this one: Italians know how to enjoy life in the moment. They do it right. They do it best.
Here’s the good news. You don’t have to go to Italy to enjoy the sweetness of doing nothing. You can experience it in your own front porch or on a boat on a lake during sunset.
Note: scrolling on your phone mindlessly is very much so NOT dolce far niente.
Similar to hygge, the essence of dolce far niente is to indulge in the moment while using your five senses. Looking up at the blue sky watching the clouds slowly pass by. Sipping on a glass of wine at the end of the day listening while nature prepares for the evening and smelling what the neighbors are making for dinner.
It’s relaxing on purpose while mindfully making the conscious decision to do so.
Try it this week. Make the effort to find delight (and not panic) in the beauty of doing nothing. Allow life to slow down instead of breeze by. Unplug. Disconnect. Sit back and relax.