There are few things I love more in this world than doing nada. This would have shocked college me: My calendar was booked every single day with plans ranging from study sessions to dinner reservations to drunken weekend shenanigans. But now, after years of spending nearly every waking moment with classmates, friends, family members, or coworkers, I truly appreciate the privilege of jumping into my cozy window-side bed, ignoring everything and everyone around me, and just scrolling through TikTok or browsing Zara’s latest styles. In other words, doing stuff that is absolutely meaningless—or is it?
The internet is now calling my favorite little self-care ritual “bed rotting,” which is defined, generally speaking, as wasting away under your cozy comforter for a few hours and being intentionally unproductive, perhaps with some bedside snacks (so you don’t have to get up) and the next episode of The Summer I Turned Pretty streaming in the background. The term is fairly new on TikTok (and viral, too, with more than 2 billion views of videos featuring people munching away, watching YouTube videos on repeat, or simply scrolling through Instagram from the comfort of their beds).
The general concept of having a “lazy” day every once in a while, however, isn’t revolutionary. So why, then, is my precious me-time practice (doing absolutely nothing in bed) suddenly being framed as something that’s inherently unhealthy or worrisome? For instance, headlines have described this “phenomenon” as “the toxic side of self-care” that warrants “warnings.”
To be fair, there’s some valid criticism of spending too much time hiding out under the covers: It can be concerning, for example, if you’re struggling to function in your daily life or you’re sleeping a lot as a means of escaping deeper emotions, which could signal mental health troubles. In that case—say, you’re not interested in doing much of anything or you consistently feel tired all day—“bed rotting” could be a sign of depression that warrants talking to a professional, like a therapist.
For the most part, though, doing nothing from time to time isn’t a dangerous health risk. In fact, making people feel “lazy” or otherwise less than for giving themselves a break is a pretty insidious message, and that’s especially true considering the hell of a time we’re having as a country: We’re coping with life during a global pandemic, sky-high inflation is making everything so expensive, and let’s not forget we’re in the middle of what’s likely the hottest summer on record.
Biologically speaking, “we aren’t designed to go, go, go,” Bonnie Zucker, PsyD, author of A Perfectionist’s Guide to Not Being Perfect, previously explained to SELF. “Our nature is not to have a nonstop 12-hour workday and a six-hour sleep cycle. That’s really going against what our biological needs call for, which is adequate downtime.” I mean, think about it: There’s a reason that rest is the solution for anything that wears your body down, from the common cold to job burnout. “It isn’t just your muscles that do work,” Jaime Seltzer, director of scientific and medical outreach at myalgic encephalomyelitis advocacy group #MEAction, told SELF last December. “All of your organ systems do work, and your brain and your heart tend to demand a lot. So even if you’re thinking very hard, you are definitely doing work.”
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