In Defense of Downtime


About ten years ago, Dave Chappelle was arguably the most popular comedian in the world. His “Chappelle’s Show” was watched by millions and badly imitated by everyone at the watercooler. Over the course of two-plus seasons, the show grew to become the most popular program in its timeslot among the coveted 18-34 male demographic. The edgy, crude sketch comedy is considered by many to be one of the greatest comedic shows ever.

Then Dave disappeared. Right in the middle of negotiating a multi-multi-million dollar contract to keep the show going, he walked away from it all. Rumors flew about drug addictions, about pressure to perform driving him insane, and him fleeing to a hideout somewhere in Africa.

Now he’s resurfaced, performing 15 stand up shows across America, and opening up about where he went all those years. The reality of it? He just needed normalcy. He did retreat to Africa, but only to find quiet. Most of the rest of the time he spent in Ohio with his wife and kids, being a normal dude.

Even though you don’t have four million people watching you perform, or anyone “pressuring” you to sign a $50 million contract, you can probably relate to Dave.

The modern working world demands that we be “on” all the time. Family life demands that we be “on” all the time. Even our entertainment, with stars who are often famous for not really doing anything, tells us we need to be “on” all the time.

The result? When we’re “off,” we have guilt. Spending an hour in front of the TV makes us feel fat. Going on a hike to where cell reception goes AWOL induces panic.

Relax. No, literally: relax!

As Dave Chappelle will tell you, prioritizing downtime is crucial to staying sane in a world where there are so many demands. Humans aren't built to be on edge all the time; it’s one of the reasons we’re programmed to sleep. Downtime is important, and you shouldn't let anyone tell you otherwise.

There’s oodles of research that tells us taking it easy (or at least going “offline”) lowers blood pressure, relaxes the tension from muscles and floods the brain with good chemicals. The result is balance, and someone who’s more prepared to deal with the stress that comes with being at the beck and call of work and family round the clock.

So yes, have a seat (though not for too long), go on a hike, take the family to a movie, turn off the cellphone for a couple hours, retreat to the woods for a camping weekend - or escape to a hotel and allow yourself to be served and pampered.

Most of all, have no guilt.

Here’s a tip: really make your downtime count by cutting yourself off from distraction. You don’t have to escape to Africa like Chappelle. Just turn off the phone and the TV, even the lights. Find a comfortable position, and focus on being happy and at peace for 15 minutes or more.

In fact, check out some of our other posts on meditation, and join our elite program, with tons of helpful tips on this topic and many, many more.


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