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March 23, 2024

Il Dolce Far Niente: An Italian Philosophy to Live By.

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I just noticed recently how much time I lose on my phone.

I was more intentional with my social media usage in the past years but just now when I got to spend my weekends at my boyfriend’s place (where he doesn’t have a Wi-Fi) did I notice how often I would just reach for my phone to check something only to get distracted and spend one hour scrolling and then forgetting why I even opened the app. I stopped using my internet because in my prepaid package I don’t have that much gigabytes and I need it for more important things than just mindless scrolling.

So I started to spend my time doing things I always wanted to do but never got to do and finally learned to savor the joys of something I never really got to understand before—what the Italians call as “il dolce far niente.” The sweetness of doing nothing.

Although it’s difficult to determine when the phrase was first used, the phrase appears in print in the memoirs of Casanova, the famous 18th-century Italian adventurer, reminding us of something we regularly forget:

Our time is ours and we decide what we get to do with it.

Since the internet is literally in our hands 24/7, I have to admit I have fallen for its traps; from a creative teenager I became a lazy adult who’d spend most of her time postponing hobbies that used to charge my soul because I ran out of time due to doomscrolling. But it’s not just that. We are constantly plugged in into an online world and most of us aren’t even aware of it.

Just when I got to spend the first couple of days literally feeling like I have nothing to do, I can just lay on my bed all day staring at the ceiling and no one or nothing would bother me in it did I realize how tired I was. I was doing something even when I thought I wasn’t doing anything, like when I sit on the couch reading ebooks or pinning photos on my pinterest, I always felt like I wasn’t doing anything really, but just now I realized how much mental energy those things really take, and not moving my body at all creates more fatigue than cleaning the whole house.

I used to make that mistake that I would hang on my phone before sitting down to write an article; my brain went completely dull. Now since I don’t connect into the online world, I feel like a fog is lifted from my brain on these days and my ideas are popping up in my head like mushrooms in the forest.

But the art of doing nothing does not only reduces to the act of literally doing nothing and can be shared with your loved ones, in my understanding. Practicing the art of il dolce far niente feels like some kind of meditation to me. It can be something as simple as watching people walking on the street from my window while sipping on my morning coffee, or eating a dish while focusing on savoring every bite, without any distractions—no phone, no newspaper, no chitchats over the plate.

For some people it even may sound revolutionary in its simplicity. Most of the people I know, if being asked how they imagine doing nothing, say similar things: traveling to an exotic country with white sandy beach and sipping cocktails in their swimsuit laying in a hammock. For most of them, doing nothing kind of equals an annual paid escape and rarely means enjoying our own life day by day, regardless what goes on around us.

It certainly helps to enjoy il dolce far niente if you are in a perfect environment, like floating in an infinity pool watching the sunset over the beautiful landscapes of Florence, but you don’t need to go that far and wait so long to master the art of doing nothing; you can master it in the here and now, like Italians do. Naturally, they are the best of it. I had the luck to work on service desk with mostly Italian coworkers, and they took it to the mastery on every level of life, even at work.

But how does one practice “il dolce far niente”?

The most beautiful thing about this way of life is that you can adopt it anywhere, anytime. But practicing it is somewhat more difficult than it may sound. People tend to place these huge expectations on themselves, even if it comes to doing nothing, overplanning to perfection and be too hard on themselves when they don’t reach those expectations. Personally, at the beginning, the hardest part of practicing the art of doing nothing was to learn how to let go of the guilt that came with it.

So I’d suggest to begin, let’s choose any activity that suits you best. Il dolce far niente can look different for everyone, even for you each time you practice it. Sometimes it’s sipping green tea with my boyfriend on the balcony in silence, stargazing, snacking on a bowl of hummus with crunchy veggie bites to dip while enjoying every bite and how different the flavours are with each vegetable, laying on the floor in front of my parents’ fireplace with my sister or closing my eyes and just feeling the warmth of the sunshine through the window of the car when I am the passenger. And sometimes you should jump on the opportunity of doing nothing when it presents itself.

~

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