Lazy or Relaxed?

I’ve been considering the idea of laziness, and I thought perhaps it was time to look up the actual meaning of “lazy” and “relaxed.”   Here is what I found on

Lazy:  adjective 1. averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion; indolent. 2. causing idleness or indolence: a hot, lazy afternoon. 3. slow-moving; sluggish: a lazy stream.

Relaxed:  adjective 1. being free of or relieved from tension or anxiety: in a relaxed mood. 2. not strict; easy; informal: the relaxed rules of the club.

I began looking up synonyms of those words, and found a LOT more with judgmental meanings:  lackadaisical, indifferent, apathetic, lethargic, complaisant, listless, indolent, sluggish.  Ugh!  I looked up indolent, because it was an interesting word that sort of rolled off the tongue:

Indolent:  adjective 1. having or showing a disposition to avoid exertion; slothful: an indolent person.

Sigh.  More judgment.

I asked friends if anyone knew of a book that deals with the idea of laziness being a cultural concept.  One friend wondered if laziness is a choice, like boredom, and made the religious connection.  (The Bible is full of disparaging remarks about sloth, and I’m told similar things show up in other religious texts.)  Another friend suggested it was more of a Western European concept, that a person is lazy if they are not doing something physically useful.  I come from a Scots/German background, and I know there was an emphasis on always doing something useful.   That may be one of the reasons knitting first appealed to me, because I could watch DVDs or spend time waiting somewhere, and still be doing something practical. 

There is a book called The Joy of Laziness: Why Life is Better Slower — and How to Get There, by Peter Axt and Michaela Axt-Gadermann (2003).  Peter Axt is a former member of the German Track and Field Association, and is a health scientist (Ph.D.).  His daughter, Michaela Axt-Gadermann, is a medical doctor.  Their research is health oriented, citing studies that suggest too much exercise can make you sick, how being relaxed makes you smarter, and how people who get 8-9 hours of sleep per night are better able to cope with life (and live longer).  They use the word “lazy” in the title and throughout much of the book, but what they are really talking about is “relaxed.” 

Thinking back, there have been times when I didn’t want to do something because it was tedious or seemed like busy-work. (Such as making sure the books on library shelves are all in order; helpful to users, yes, but tedious to the extreme.  Although I did discover some interesting books that way.)  Yes, I was being lazy.  However, my husband points out we both have full-time jobs and pay all our bills, so we probably are not really lazy.  Perhaps I just have a more relaxed attitude toward life (and housework, and getting ahead, and all of that stuff).  There is a difference between being present and ready at your job when you are needed, and doing busy-work (just in case the boss happens to see you).  There is a difference between making a 15-minute task last 75 minutes (when more calls are coming in), and occasionally reading a book or knitting when your tasks are all caught up and you have a bit of “down” time.  I’m not averse to work, I just don’t see that drive to always be working as a virtue.  (One of those loaded value words, again.)   🙂   Many people do strange things, but in mental health it is only considered a problem if it bothers them or the people they are around on a regular basis.   Perhaps it is the same way with being relaxed. 

The next time that voice in my head (my mom?) chides me for not doing useful things all the time, I will stop and consider.  If I am being lazy, I will do something about it.  But if I am being relaxed, I will claim that word, and suggest the voice back off.     🙂    I can almost see the confused look on my mother’s face.


About judithornot

Lives in semi-rural Northern California, happily married, retired counselor, night person, knits, plays WoW.
This entry was posted in books, family, health, Mental Health, Random thoughts, social issues and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Lazy or Relaxed?

  1. kiwiyarns says:

    I’d add another word to this: “pace”. Since I’ve allowed by life to live at my pace, and not at someone else’s (that allusion to the voice in your head made me smile in recognition), life has been a lot better. It’s not lazy. It’s still productive and useful. But it’s at my pace.


  2. Walter Cortes says:

    A very well-thought and researched comparisons and a lot of useful materials to boot, thank you for sharing.

    These topics interests me and I looked at the definitions of both words as the author did. The subsequent observations, I obsessed myself to endeavor and can attest that, as the definition of those words imply, there is a major difference between “being lazy” and “being relaxed.” A book that touches on the above topics more specifically (should I say, more pratically) is by Edmund Jacobson, YOU MUST RELAX. I love the fact that one can only not relax and be productive/successful in doing what he/she chooses but also the clear mind/thinking that goes with it (see page 146 of the above mentioned book). And as another book would aptly put:

    “ALL things should be done the easy (relaxed) way because it is also the BEST way.” To which, I heartily agree 🙂


    • judithornot says:

      Thank you , Walter. — I will look for that book. I also like the comment about learning the easy way, and hope I can do that rather than moving on to the HARD way. 🙂


      • Walter Cortes says:


        I hear you 🙂

        Doing things the easy way is not always easy especially in America where talking high and tired and living excitedly & hurriedly is the norm.

        I read YOU MUST RELAX many times over and still reading it occasionally. Buy a copy and you will surely agree that it is worth every penny! WHY BE TIRED by Daniel W. Josselyn is an excellent book on the subject (doing things the easy way) also. I have both.

        I love your articles and writing style.


        Walter in Hawaii


      • judithornot says:

        Thank you for your compliment, Walter. 🙂 And now I have another book to buy. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s