As a society, we take great pride in productivity. Often times when we struggle with emotional distress, we try and find ways to stay busy so we don’t have time to notice thoughts and emotions that may be causing us distress at the moment. 

There is tons of information on how we can increase our productivity and efficiency at work, in our homes, and in life in general. Unfortunately, as much as we like productivity, it may not be the answer when dealing with our emotions or mental health. 


Jon Kabat-Zinn

Many times when we are looking for ways to address mental health issues, we focus on “feeling better”. This can lead to the false perception that if we feel better, we must be better, which is not always the case. We can experience temporary relief from emotional distress related to mental health or life circumstances, but it does not mean the root or cause of our distress has been resolved. 

If we simply focus on feeling better temporarily, we may prevent ourselves from experiencing true inner peace. Many therapeutic exercises and practices are focused on short-term relief from symptoms. Sometimes this is useful, but may not be a long-term solution to struggles with may be experiencing. The best example I can provide is grief. 

The loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences we can have as humans. When experiencing grief simple tasks like just waking up or taking a shower can feel unbearable. In order to make it through the day, we find ways to distract ourselves from our thoughts and what we are feeling. 

While this is necessary and useful, it is also important to give our minds, hearts, bodies, and souls space to feel the emotions that scare us. There is a phrase “there is no around, but only through” and when it comes to our emotions and feelings that is often the case. 

Being productive can be a good thing and we all have to find ways to be as productive as possible in order to manage the million things we have going on at once. Balancing work, school, family, community, and self is not easy, and being as productive and efficient as possible can help us get things done. 

However, intentionally not doing anything and allowing ourselves time to sit with ourselves, our thoughts, and emotions can be one of the most productive things we can do for ourselves and our mental health

Buddhism refers to this as non-doing. I think this practice and challenging what we consider “productive” is a wonderful tool to support our emotional and spiritual well-being. 

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