Dutch wellness trend ‘niksen,’ meaning ‘doing nothing,’ has gained global attention as a means to combat stress and recover from burnout.
Residents of The Hague, renowned for its picturesque coastline, often engage in niksen while sunbathing or enjoying nature. Unlike mindfulness, which focuses on being present, niksen involves setting aside time to be and allowing the mind to wander freely simply.
As we gradually recover from the pandemic, it is crucial to reconsider how we work and spend our time.
Where did Niksen come from?
The term ‘niksen’ is a Dutch verb derived from ‘niks,’ meaning ‘nothing,’ aligning with the Dutch language’s tendency to transform nouns into verbs.
Monique Flecken, a psycholinguist at the University of Amsterdam, explains that the Dutch language reflects its speakers’ practical and direct nature.
In Dutch, ‘niksen’ can be used positively or negatively, with parents asking their children if they are ‘doing nothing again’ or people describing a leisurely evening as ‘deliciously doing nothing.’
Thijs Launspach, a psychologist and author, describes niksen as occupying oneself with trivial activities and enjoying personal time while doing as little as possible.
Elderly individuals with more unstructured free time often engage in niksen. At the same time, younger generations face increasing stress levels due to complex lives, high-performance expectations, and the influence of social media.
However, some stress can be beneficial, as it keeps individuals focused. The challenge arises when stress becomes overwhelming.
Niksen has been found to connect individuals to their default mode network, fostering mind-wandering and reflection.
Paradoxically, niksen can enhance productivity by allowing the brain to rest and return with improved focus and sustained attention.
The Dutch, known for their efficient work ethic, prioritize breaks and discourage overtime, reflecting their honest and egalitarian culture.
The Netherlands offers numerous niksen-friendly locations, including its beautiful beaches in The Hague (Scheveningen and Kijkduin), Castricum, and Zandvoort near Amsterdam.
The country’s dunes, such as Voornes Duin near Rotterdam, provide serene settings with benches for relaxation. Parks like Kralingse Bos in Rotterdam also offer opportunities for niksen.
The Dutch people’s creativity is evident in their renowned painters, such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Escher, as well as their innovative solutions to combat floods.
Dutch society values enjoyment, evident in the word ‘lekker,’ which means ‘delicious’ and is used to describe anything pleasant.
The Dutch embrace active lifestyles, cycling, hiking, and making time to clear their minds. Cafes and terraces fill up even during winter, providing perfect spaces for niksen.
While some experts recommend physical activity in nature as a distraction from daily worries, combining niksen, nature, and movement is achievable in the Netherlands.
Despite not being known for extensive natural resources, the Dutch appreciate their small natural areas. A network of hiking and cycling routes connects the country, with NS Wandelingen offering easily accessible routes via public transport. With benches along the way, individuals can even incorporate niksen breaks into their day trips.
Dutch people enjoy ample leisure time due to the country’s excellent welfare system and generous vacation policies. A secure and balanced life contributes to lower stress levels. Given the current global challenges, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and conflicts like the war in Ukraine, stress relief has become more critical than ever.
The Dutch embrace the concept of niksen, valuing moments of doing nothing to combat stress and promote well-being. This practice aligns with their culture, language, and appreciation for leisure.