Niksen – the art of “doing nothing” – for IBD

Constant life distractions have left us lacking time. Time better used for recharging, recalibrating, creating, and managing diseases such as IBD. As a culture, we’re losing the ability to sit and do nothing and our health is taking a hard hit because of it.

This never-ending stimulation creates unbearable mental and physical stress — a constant theme in IBD. Increasing evidence shows that psychological stress is linked with inflammatory bowel disease, teaching us that we need to make time to embrace the stillness.

Niksen – Dutch concept of doing nothing

Northern Europe has some notable ways of living that help people slow down.


First came the trend of Fika, a Swedish concept of enjoying a coffee, sweet, and break from work every afternoon. This pause is thought to be a state of mind, and attitude. Many Swedes consider that it’s almost essential to make daily time for fika.

Then came hygge, pronounced “hoo-ga,”. This Danish approach encompasses a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life. Think candles, warm blankets, hot tea, and warm and fuzzy coziness and comfort.

The next trend that’s being embraced as a way to combat our increasingly busy and stressful lives is called niksen. This  is the Dutch concept of simply doing nothing, similar to mindfulness.

In TIME magazine, Ruut Veenhoven, sociologist and professor at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands, explained how niksen differs from mindfulness. He states that mindfulness is about being present in the moment, where as niksen is more about making time to just be. It includes letting your mind wander, rather than focusing on the details of life.


Veenhoven says:

One aspect of the ‘art of living’ is to find out what ways of relaxing fit you best. There’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach; rather, you’ll discover which behaviors are most effective for you though trial and error.”


As some of you may know, the creators of Nori live in the Netherlands. So we know firsthand, the power and importance of niksen for a healthy and balanced lifestyle.


Losing the ability to embrace the stillness

As a culture, we’re losing the ability to sit and do nothing.


Thrive Global’s article, “How to Stop Feeling Time Starved” provided some shocking statistics about what we’d rather do than sit with nothing to do.

Christine Carter, socialist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, explained that the drastic increase in amount of work and distractions, have made us really bad at being with our own thoughts.

In 11 studies, researchers found that participants typically did not enjoy spending six to fifteen minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think. In fact, many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves. One participant even shocked himself 190 times in 15 minutes!

This in part due to “cognitive overload”, constant external stimulus which impairs our ability to think creatively, plan, organize, innovate, solve problems, make decisions, resist temptations, learn new things easily, speak fluently, remember important social information and control emotions.


The main take-away was that if we want to be high-functioning and happy, we need to re-learn how to be still.


One stillness type doesn’t fit all

The “contrast avoidance” theory describes that people may make themselves anxious intentionally, as a way to avoid the letdown they might get if something bad were to actually happen. Some people may be staying anxious to prevent drastic anxiety.

In a new Journal of Affective Disorders study, a team worked with 96 college students, including 32 participants with generalized anxiety disorder and 34 with major depressive disorder. Researchers found that people with generalized anxiety disorder were most sensitive to extreme emotional shifts, and they tend to feel the most anxiety while practicing relaxation techniques.


Basically, people who are more vulnerable to relaxation-induced anxiety are often the ones who need it the most.

Sometimes quiet time can bring about extremely stressful thoughts. If you feel like you’re ruminating or repeating unhelpful ideas, or feel intense anxiety, take a break. Listen to your body and mind, know when something is helping you grow versus something that’s going to push you too much. Start by practicing just a few minutes of quiet time per day to start.


IBD: take a moment of “me time”

Burnout, anxiety, and stress don’t cause IBD but during times of physical or emotional turmoil, more flare-ups can occur.

It also goes the other way, since IBD is a very stressful condition, its common to have more negative thoughts and feelings and psychological difficulties. This is why self care and support are helpful tools during the healing process.

Nori Health is here to help you find your best “me time” and relearn how to embrace the essential quiet moments of life.


This article has been written by Lisa Booth, registered dietitian and nutritionist, and co-founder of Nori Health. Content is based on her professional knowledge, and our collection of 100+ scientific research study papers.