Psychological Impacts of Idling and What to Do About It

September 17, 2020

As the saying goes, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. Idling is when an individual detaches oneself from work and responsibilities while having more rest time than needed. Apart from negative mental health symptoms such as depression, there are other psychological effects we should take note of.

Student being productive by writing ideas on sticky notes as part of university’s counselling program
Psychological Impacts of Idling and What to Do About It

1. Memory Difficulties

The global epidemic of physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles is prevalent among the young and old. Based on a preliminary study from the University of California, the research study suggested that excessive sedentary time is associated with thinner brain regions, particularly the medial temporal lobe which is responsible for the formation of new memories (1). In other words, there is a higher chance of experiencing memory loss if we are not productive in taking care of our physical and mental well-being.

2. Lack of Emotional Control

Idling is rooted in a sedentary lifestyle which includes activities such as prolonged sitting, sleeping, lying down and screen-based entertainment. According to a study conducted at a Korean university, longer periods of displaying sedentary behaviour had elevated stress, anxiety and depression among Korean university students (2). As a result, the students’ productivity level declines when prolonged idling leads to feelings of negativity and unhelpful thoughts.

3. Decreased Motivation

Believe it or not, we are susceptible to idling when we remain in our comfort zone for too long. Subconsciously, this makes us feel resistant to take up challenges which are often more rewarding. For example, when a student is reluctant to participate in future competitions for fear of losing their current achievement.
Fortunately, there are some solutions to replace that state of unproductivity. Here are some suggestions:

  • Give Friends and Family a Call

    Sometimes, idling at home is due to a lack of inspiration or insight on a certain task. If you are experiencing this in your student life, giving your loved ones a call may ease that mental block you’ve been facing for days. Alternatively, seek advice from your university counselling unit who are experienced in student counselling for all kinds of academic challenges and personal issues.

  • Do Some Light Exercises

    When you have been sitting or lying down all day, you will be surprised by the mental fatigue and restlessness that come with it. Take a break from your sedentary position and do some light stretches and exercises to improve blood circulation. This can easily be done indoors.

  • Learn a New Skill

    As a student, how do you tackle low productivity? By learning a new skill! Thanks to technology, education is made accessible for anyone with a stable Internet connection. You can learn basic living skills like preparing healthy budget meals from tutorial videos, or enrol for accredited online course programmes to better equip your future career.

Education is the gateway to a brighter future. Take that next step with us at INTI International University & Colleges! For more information about our course programmes, campus life and other matters, reach out to us via INTI’s online contact form.

1. Siddarth, P., Burggren, A. C., Eyre, H. A., Small, G.W., & Merrill, D. A. (2018). Sedentary behavior associated with reduced medial temporal lobe thickness in middle-aged and older adults. PLoS ONE, 13(4): e0195549.
2. Lee, E., & Kim, Y. (2019). Effect of university students’ sedentary behavior on stress, anxiety, and depression. Perspect Psychiatr Care, 55, 164-169.