Over the years there have been a glut of ‘life concepts’ emanating from Northern Europe. From the Danish hygge which embraces coziness of all kinds — to the Swedish lagom, which advocates enjoying a little bit of everything in moderation — they have all pointed towards embracing a more mindful and nourishing way of life. However, we may have found our new favorite. It is the Dutch concept of ‘niksen’, and it translates as, well, doing nothing. 

What is ‘Niksen’?

Do not get it twisted however, niksen is not about being ‘lazy’. It is the conscious decision to do nothing, produce nothing, achieve nothing — except, a moment to one’s self. Think sitting in a chair gazing out the window. Think listening to music, or daydreaming. In today’s hustle and bustle society, in love with its own grind, niksen is a moment we carve out for ourselves; to let our minds wander, to relax without the focus or direction of a specific task. 

Photo by Tsunami Green on Unsplash

Time for one’s self, without the pressure of a goal, is good for our mental health, and sense of self. It is also a tonic against the growing burnout problem that affects many workers. Some people niksen by going for a walk, watching clouds, or hanging on the corner. Some people niksen by knitting, or by sitting beneath a tree. Phone scrolling does not count as niksen, sorry!

Psychic Relaxation

Although it may come from a similar stable to mindfulness, they are certainly not the same. While mindfulness encourages you to be present and dialed into the moment, niksen is about letting life wash over you, relinquishing control, and psychically doodling for a little while. For those who like to microdose — or trip— on psilocybin, the light of recognition may be glowing in your eyes…. But, don’t worry, we’ll come back to that later…

Why Do the Dutch Excel at Doing Nothing?

So how does this meld with Dutch culture? Afterall, the Dutch rank as one of the most productive labor forces in Europe. But here’s the kicker — the Dutch work far less hours than many of their European neighbors. In fact, around 50% actually work part-time! So how can this be? Could the doing of nothing, or ‘niks’, actually encourage productivity?

Photo by Gaurav Jain on Unsplash

While it may seem obvious — that the happier and more fulfilled the worker, the more productive they will be — very few Western societies support the conditions that actually make this possible. One reason why the Dutch may have nailed this Holy Grail of work-life balance could be their openness to the many other aspects of life. We are talking, specifically, about drugs. 

Does Societal Tolerance Encourage Niksen?

The Netherlands has long been known for its relatively liberal drug policies, including the decriminalization of cannabis and the tolerance of certain psychedelics, such as magic truffles. This approach of tolerance and regulation may have had some notable impacts on Dutch culture, such as:

Reduced Stigma and Criminalization:

By decriminalizing or tolerating certain psychedelics, the Netherlands has reduced the stigma associated with their use. This has allowed for more open discussions about the potential benefits and risks of these substances, fostering a more informed and nuanced societal attitude towards them.

Medical Research and Innovation:

The Netherlands has been at the forefront of psychedelic research, particularly in the field of mental health. The country’s relatively permissive regulations have allowed scientists to conduct clinical trials and studies on the therapeutic potential of substances like psilocybin (from magic mushrooms and truffles) and MDMA (ecstasy) for treating conditions such as depression, PTSD, and anxiety. This research has the potential to lead to new treatment options and therapeutic approaches, benefiting not only Dutch society but also the global community.

magic truffles via Wholecelium.com
Tourism and Cultural Exchange:

Amsterdam, in particular, has become a hub for psychedelic tourism, attracting visitors from around the world interested in exploring the city’s coffeeshops and smart shops (where certain psychedelics are legally sold). 

Cultural and Artistic Expression:

The acceptance of psychedelics in Dutch society has influenced various forms of artistic expression, including music, visual arts, literature, and film. Dutch artists and creatives have drawn inspiration from psychedelic experiences, resulting in a rich tapestry of cultural production that reflects the influence of these substances on the collective imagination.

All of this comes together to create a society that respects the freedoms of the individual, and trusts them to use their (higher than average) leisure time as they wish. Both niksen and the tolerance of psychedelics reflect a respect for individual autonomy and a willingness to embrace diverse ways of living.

Respecting the Individual’s Decision

This also contributes to the Dutch emphasis on the work-life balance. Niksen is a form of self-care and relaxation that contributes to this way of life. Similarly, the Netherlands’ drug policies reflect a desire to strike a balance between personal freedom and public safety, allowing individuals to make informed choices. These informed choices are made all the more easy when information is readily available to people — rather than hidden away — such as in countries with draconian drug laws. Both niksen and drug tolerance are about the individual’s power to make the decisions that work for them, and the ability to live their lives authentically. 

The Crossover Between Niksen and the Psilocybin Experience

And it is not just societal attitude that links the two. There is a distinct crossover between the experiential characteristics of both psilocybin and niksen. As we mentioned earlier, that mind wandering, in-your-own-world, choose-your-own-adventure, freeform thought that niksen represents, is very kindred to a psilocybin experience. 

Although a full tripping dose will have your psyche making loops around Jupiter, it can’t quite be called niksen. A proper, all encompassing trip, is definitely doing something. It needs some planning and some thought

We’re talking about a microdose or a low/medium dose that will give you a similar, if not more dedicated, inner-world traveler experience similar to niksen. (Your dosage will affect how intense this is.) Psilocybin encourages your mind to wander, to go down avenues that it mightn’t go down when sober, to think outside the box, to forget where you even left the box. This can actually help you to incorporate niksen into your life, if you are having trouble letting go.

Photo by Stephen on Unsplash

To take shrooms or magic truffles, is to decide to take some time to be in your feelings, in your body, in your senses, in your mind. Whether you realize it or not, when you enjoy a dose of psilocybin you are giving space and focus to your inner self. But on the outside, it may look as if you are simply doing… nothing at all… niks, in fact. 

Niksen and Psilocybin: The Takeaway

  • Niksen is the Dutch word for doing nothing, with the only goal being relaxation
  • It stands in opposition to the 24/7 burnout culture that many of us find ourselves in today.
  • Niksen does not mean laziness. In fact the Dutch are one of the most productive societies in Europe!
  • Everyone’s niksen looks different, whether it’s walking in nature or daydreaming. 
  • Links can be made between niksen and the openness of Dutch society towards different ways of living, specifically the tolerance of cannabis and some psychedelics. 
  • Both niksen and drug tolerance promote personal freedom and trust in the individual.
  • Micro-to-medium doses of psilocybin actually mirror and enhance the mind-freeing characteristics of niksen.

Both psilocybin and niksen are ways of checking in with your inner-self, as well as giving yourself the gift of both time and space. Why not do nothing today?

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