Stop Feeling Guilty for Being Idle

For the first time in months, I voluntarily went to the gym today. I went because I felt like it. I didn’t force myself to. Importantly, I worked out for as long as I felt comfortable and felt good- I didn’t shame or guilt my way into staying for longer (even though I only spent about half the time there I had planned to). Working out wasn’t a punishment- it was something I was doing because I enjoyed it.

Karma was on my side today, too. I absolutely love art fairs, and there was an art fair today from 10-5 at the recc center where I work out. I probably would have missed it if I hadn’t gone to work out this morning. It won’t be there every time I work out, but it was nice to have the extra bonus of browsing it after my workout.

I decided to walk on the treadmill- something that I enjoy doing because I can read at the same time (which is basically my favorite activity). I brought a book to start and began walking. I noticed that I kept checking the time. I wasn’t enjoying the book (it’s not very good) and it was difficult to focus on it while walking. I had a moment of panic- what would I do if I stopped reading? How could I entertain myself for the next 40 minutes or so that I planned to keep walking? I turned to the activity screen on the treadmill, which boasted TV, Youtube, Games, and more. I tried a few TV channels, but they weren’t very interesting to watch without sound or closed captions. I was excited about the games, but the label really should have been Game, because there was only one: Angry Birds. I looked up at the TV that was placed in front of my set of treadmills: weight loss infomercials. My panic increased- wasn’t the point of this workout to read?

It took me a few moments to just relax and enjoy the workout. Part of what I love about exercising (and there isn’t very much honestly), is that it clears your mind. Maybe one reason why I hated workouts so much is that I tried so hard to multitask, which stressed me more than it relaxed me.

One of my biggest and most dangerous obsessions is with time. I can’t stop thinking about how much time an activity will take or whether or not an errand or book or activity will be a waste of time. I feel frustrated when I’m driving because I can’t do anything. I’ve tried audiobooks and podcasts, which I enjoy, but they sometimes stress me out even more.

Recently, I’ve started just listening to music while I drive and I’ve found that somehow, this is a lot more relaxing. I turn on Pandora, clear my mind and let it wander. I reaped the benefits of this last night when driving back from dinner with my parents. I was listening to a song I particularly liked when inspiration struck me for the novel project I’ve been stuck on for weeks. Suddenly, I knew exactly where I wanted to take it.

Would I have had that inspiration if I forced myself to always be doing something? Probably not. Would I have enjoyed my workout more if I forced myself to read the book or play Angry Birds? Probably not.

I am slowly learning that it’s okay to be idle. Every second of my time doesn’t have to be spent on self-improvement. I don’t have to always be working toward my goals. Idle time should be valued not squandered.

If you are someone who, like me, has a problem with being idle, I encourage you to take some time for yourself. Relax. Workout without reading or watching a show. Drive without listening to a podcast. Don’t force yourself to always be planning your next move. Just let yourself be. Enjoy your idle time- don’t feel guilty for it!

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