Stay Healthy By Wasting Your Time

A German scientist, Professor Peter Axt, believes he has discovered the antidote for stress and the secret to a long life: "Waste half your free time. Just enjoy lazing around."

According to Professor Axt, "people who would rather laze in a hammock instead of running a marathon or who take a midday nap instead of playing squash have a better chance of living into old age." In fact he believes that too much exercise is actually detrimental to health. "People who run long distances are using up energy they need for other purposes. They suffer memory loss. They risk premature senility." Suffice it to say that I have an incredibly sharp memory. I can remember obscure facts like the name of my 4th grade class's pet snake and the exact words shrieked by Claudia Pace when she opened her desktop and found him sitting on top of her spelling book. Professor Axt and I are on the same page when it comes to the best way to stay healthy, or at least we were on the same page until his book fell out of my hand when I dozed off.

I don't think there's anything better for a person than having enough free time to do nothing. In fact, I take my health so seriously, that I also waste half of my time at work lazing around. For example, right now I'm supposed to be writing this column. But after a few minutes I find my mind drifting to thoughts of a summer vacation on the beach, and the advantages of chicken versus tuna salad for lunch. A look at the clock brings me back to the present serious task at hand and I type furiously for another ten or fifteen minutes until I realize I haven't checked my email today.

This leads me to the incredible hammock ride of the internet, where I can rock back and forth through beach vacation sites, or daydream about making millions with the click of a mouse. My aimless linking stops when I discover research which indicates that the U.S. is suffering from an epidemic of sleepiness. Nearly two-thirds of American adults do not get the nightly eight hours of sleep recommended for good health and optimum performance, according to an annual poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation. "Sleep is a health, safety and performance necessity, not a luxury and Americans are not getting enough of it," said Ronald Krall, the foundation's president. "Well, I couldn't agree more," I mumble, as I go to lie down on my office couch and contemplate the impact of this study, and the possibility of getting a full-time job doing Sleep Foundation research. My contemplation is only disturbed when my snoring startles me. Feeling increasingly healthy, and in tune with the latest trends, I head to the break room for a snack.

Fortunately, I work for myself, or I probably would have lost my job a long time ago. As it is I've been forced to threaten myself with dismissal on several occasions. But Corporate America is creating a culture of stressed out, overworked, unhappy people who are afraid that taking time to smell the flowers will mess up their chance to get promoted to senior Vice President in charge of putting customers on hold. Work is the only activity that people say they are devoting longer hours to than they did five years ago. Four in ten people now say they work at least a 50-hour week. And all the things that people love best about life, they report doing less. Less time for sleep. Less time for play. Less time for sex.

Maybe this is natural selection at work. The people who are habitually overworked and stressed out will gradually stop breeding until their genes disappear, and the world is overrun by those of us who like to go home early to play Frisbee with our dogs and take naps with our spouses.

I had something else I was going to say before I noticed that I've been sitting here playing with a rubber band for the last five minutes. I suppose that I should instead look at the ten page list of things I have to do and get cracking on them. I have deadlines to meet, phone calls to make, and pet lizards who are depending on me to buy them live crickets to eat. The children have to be driven to their multitude of scheduled activities, and then they need haircuts, new clothes, help with homework, and enlightened instruction on how to live their lives.

Well, the best I can say to them is this: Enjoy your moments. Every day is filled to the brim with commitments and work, but in the end, the only important thing is to enjoy what you do, while you do it. Enjoy running to catch the bus. Enjoy the ride to school. Enjoy complaining about the crappy food in the cafeteria. Every moment presents an opportunity. Fill your day with opportunities you enjoy.

So go ahead and daydream. Sharpen your pencil for five minutes. Doodle. Dawdle. Brush your hair again and stick your tongue out at yourself in the mirror. Don't spend all your time doing what everyone keeps telling you has to get done. If you really want to lead a great life, try to spend the best part of it doing the most important thing of all: nothing!


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