Why Being Lazy Isn’t Such a Bad Thing

Laziness is NOT a dirty word.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Why being lazy isn't such a bad thing

Often seen to be a character flaw or a trait of the unmotivated, laziness has rightfully become synonymous with a renewed awareness in work–life balance and wellbeing.

This article will explore how laziness, when used in the right way, can become advantageous to our life, in and outside of work. We’ll discuss what it is and what it means to be lazy, and also cover why being lazy isn’t bad — plus how you can harness these to become even better at who you are and what you do!

So, what is laziness?

Laziness is most frequently defined as a person’s reluctance to undertake a certain task or responsibility, despite having the ability to do it. Laziness is a feeling or mindset, as opposed to a character trait, and people can become more or less lazy over time, depending on a variety of circumstances.

It’s also important to note that laziness is subjective; someone might feel that they’re being lazy, but the person next to them perhaps considers them to be very hardworking.

In a similar vein, people might have their own ideas of what laziness means. For some, it can be habitual. For others, it can be tactical, and some people might consider it a symptom or an outcome of something bigger.

Why are we lazy?

“Laziness can be a natural response to feeling overwhelmed or burnt out,” says Jason Shiers, a Certified Psychotherapist and Addiction Trauma ED Specialist over at United Recovery California. “It’s important to strike a balance between productivity and rest.”

It’s common to think of laziness as being linked to motivation, but there’s more to it than that.  When we enjoy certain things, such as good food or fresh air, brains generate dopamine. Exercise and physical activity also generate dopamine, but only if our brain is hardwired to do so.

Some people simply don’t get that feel-good urge when the time comes to get active. One study investigated the relationship between physical activity and downtime, and found that those people with a higher need for downtime (ie: laziness) can often solve more challenging problems through deep thought.

Some causes of laziness are linked to genetics. Another study used mice to show how a certain gene mutation leads to less activity over multiple generations, and increased activity in generations of mice without that mutation.

Why is laziness considered a bad thing?

We’ve discussed that laziness isn’t regarded as a trait, but it is common for people to see it as a personality flaw; the word itself is said to derive from the Middle Low Germanic lasich, meaning “weak”. It’s common for laziness to be seen as negative, as it’s often regarded as doing things less well or slower than intended, due to self-inflicted lack of productivity.

Another aspect to viewing laziness as a bad thing lies in the belief that hard work is superior to relaxation. This is known as the “laziness lie”. There are many reasons why we might feel lazy, but a common one is being tired at best, or at worst, burned out from working hard to achieve goals. In this respect, a little lazy time is the best remedy!

The science-backed benefits of laziness

Now that we’ve journeyed through the meaning of laziness, let’s cover some of the benefits of being lazy. That’s right, being lazy is often not a bad thing, and something that has seriously powerful advantages for us. Here are the top 10 benefits of being lazy.

1. It reduces stress

Stress can cause many issues, including health conditions, unhappiness and other work-related challenges, many of which are discussed below in terms of how laziness can benefit them.

Laziness relaxes the mind through procrastination and directing attention to other, seemingly less important. things. Procrastination can help unclog your thought processes and release tension that can otherwise lead to stressors forming.

When this is managed correctly (ie: in a way that doesn’t interfere with the realization of long-term plans), destressing through laziness can become something of a hidden superpower.

2. It helps you sleep and rest better

“Sometimes, being lazy can be a way to take a break and recharge your batteries,” says Lachlan Brown, the founder of Hack Spirit. “It can help you rest and recover from a busy or stressful period. Taking some downtime can be beneficial for your mental and physical health, and may help you return to work with renewed energy and focus.”

Chris Bailey refers to the idea of a restful mind as “scatterfocus”, where we don’t need to regulate our attention. When we’re lazy, our attention is at rest, and this offers restorative benefits, including a deeper sleep, better dreaming and more efficient energy restoration. Improved restfulness and sleep also contribute to improved focus, which is discussed later on.

3. It can keep you organized

Laziness can help you take stock of your time, what activities or projects are worth spending time on, and which ones are not. In short, knowing when to rest demonstrates that you’re in control over how you spend your day.

In a point related to focusing on goals (below), laziness can help you focus your energy on projects that are important and add value to your life. Laziness provides moments of clarity that help you analyze what is what, and can contribute to the right frame of mind to plan your day.

4. It can increase productivity

Many people equate laziness with not being able to multitask; however, research shows that, in many cases, multitasking can negatively impact brain health in the long term. Laziness creates moments of clarity that allow us to plan activities and how we allocate our time. It can also create a relaxed and rational mind that is conducive to planning our time.

Additionally, creating this extra time to plan and prepare means that we’ll spend more time doing jobs correctly the first time, which will in turn reduce stress levels and help us be more productive over time.

5. It can boost creativity

“Being lazy can boost creativity and innovation,” says Angela Ficken, psychotherapist at Progress Wellness. “When we allow our minds to wander and take a break from our structured routines, we may stumble upon new ideas or solutions that we wouldn't have thought of otherwise.”

This wandering mind can help us connect the past, present and future, which is invaluable in terms of creative insight. Being lazy allows us to recall the past, contextualize using the present and turning ideas into goals for the future. There simply isn’t enough space for this thought process to happen when we’re alert and working flat-out.

6. It can help focus you on your goals

Being goal-oriented has lots of benefits, such as increased career happiness and a better work–life balance. It might seem a bit of an oxymoron, but laziness can help you focus on your goals.  In fact, one piece of research from 2012 suggests that we can focus up to seven times more on our goals when we’re a little lazy!

Laziness helps us rest our mind and give our thought processes a bit of a break, while keeping us thinking about the future. This in turn creates clarity and targeted thinking when the time comes to switch on and get working on those targets.

7. It can safeguard you against burnout

Taking downtime safeguards your energy reserves and stops you from spending effort and energy that simply won’t be there all the time, and this is when burnout can occur.

Downtime can often be presented as laziness, but this simply isn’t the case. Being lazy will ensure that you’re effectively managing stress levels and taking time to focus on you, rather than all the competing forces and people around you. Knowing when to switch off and recharge is half the battle, though, and it’s all too easy to do this only when it is too late.

8. It can boost your emotional intelligence

Our lazy moments are ones where we might engage in activities like watching TV or socializing with our nearest and dearest. It’s these moments that allow us to not only recharge but also observe interactions and spend time with others in a low-pressure environment — as opposed to workplace scenarios that might be intense and lead to us behaving in a way that we did not intend.

A 2015 study corroborates this by illustrating how people who spend time watching dramas have improved ability in detecting and understanding other people’s emotions. This has practical applications both at work and in our downtime too.

9. It can help you eat better

Marta De la Cruz, a clinical psychologist at Balance Luxury Rehab, says: “A lazy person may be less inclined to leave the office to grab fast food or go to a restaurant and, instead, opt for healthier options such as leftovers, salad, soup or a homemade sandwich.”

Laziness might help us fall into better eating habits, pushing us towards what is convenient and healthy in terms of food and drink. This might also encourage us to save time and money in our eating habits. We have already discussed how laziness helps us sleep better. Being rested and alert helps us metabolize faster, which is also great for our diets and our bodies.

10. It can help you heal

“The truth is our body needs rest to rejuvenate and heal,” says Dr Harold Hong, a board-certified psychiatrist at New Waters Recovery. “The modern world has us constantly on the go.”

Whereas being lazy can proactively help your health, it’s important to recognize that sometimes we won’t understand the power of this until it’s too late. Even while you’re experiencing stress or burnout, switching off and being lazy can still positively impact your health. This can help you recharge, unwind and switch off from whatever has been causing you stress.

Remember that our bodies need these moments, and being on the go constantly — even if we aren’t working flat out — can still be damaging to our physical and mental health.

Final thoughts

Laziness is a much more complex behavior than we realize. Of course, it has its disadvantages, and it would be to our detriment if we’re lazy all the time, but when used as one ingredient of our complex lives, laziness can really help us reach the next level in terms of:

  • Supporting our wellness
  • Helping us achieve our goals
  • Positively impacting our career
  • Helping us make the most out of every day

So, the next time you’re running from one task to the next, wondering if what you’re doing is really enough, take a step back and relax, knowing that the answer to that question lies within yourself — after a good night’s sleep or some time in front of Netflix.

What do you think? Is lazy a good or a bad thing? Let us know in the comments section below.


Originally published on October 1, 2015.