Most of us speed through life. We drive fast. We eat fast. We walk fast. We talk fast. And somehow we still want things to be faster. Faster internet. Faster customer service. Faster children. All this speediness causes us to miss some really important things. Like the roses we’re supposed to smell. The delicious taste of homemade pasta sauce. What your child is really trying to tell you. This need for speed leads to mental health issues like depression and anxiety because we’re overwhelmed and not really experiencing life at all.
So how do we slow down in a world that keeps speeding up? Here are 7 small suggestions that can make a huge difference:
Take a Breath
In meditation practices this is called a sacred pause. When you take one breath between the end of one action and the beginning of another it creates space. This takes one second at most. Everyone has a single second no matter what is going on. This alone will slow your life down so significantly you won’t even notice. No one around you will even notice. But everyone will notice the benefits. There are endless opportunities to breathe. Try it when listening to someone else before you respond. Your relationships will dramatically improve. Take a breath at the stoplight. When you’re waiting in line. Before you make a telephone call. Soon you’ll be doing it without thinking. Ironically it’ll seem like you have more time in your day.
Just Say No
Most of us are overextended. You know this to be true if come Friday night you’re hoping the neighbors cancel dinner plans so you don’t have to go. If you find yourself dreading certain activities you need to be the one to cancel them, perhaps permanently if you have never enjoyed them. You can’t do everything and you can’t be everything. Prioritize only that which (and who) really gets your blood pumping. And of course the occasional responsibility that is necessary to then do the things that get your blood pumping. If you have children keep this in mind for them also.
Get into the Wild
The wild outdoors that is. You're forced to slow down in nature because it actually slows down the brain by forcing it to be present in the moment. All this without any effort. How novel! So breathe in that fresh air. Walk amongst the mighty trees. Lie in the blanketed grass. Listen to the bird songs. Gaze at the rippling water.
Electronics speed us up because of their speed. It’s easy to get sucked in so you have to make an intentional effort to leave them alone for enough time to slow yourself back down. Leave your phone in another room in the evening. Don’t turn it on for an entire day. Only check email at designated times during the day. Block your internet when working on a project.
Switch to Half Speed
Whatever it is that you’re doing, walking, eating, folding clothes, do it at a slightly slower speed than you usually do. This might feel strange at first but you’ll begin to notice how often we operate on autopilot. Slowing down actually allows us to experience the moment and perhaps make some new discoveries. Discoveries that may actually save us some time or at least allow us to enjoy the time more.
Do One Thing at a Time
We all like to think we’re the masters of multi-tasking but in reality it’s unlikely we’re completing any of the tasks to the best of our ability. Sure, there are times where multi-tasking is necessary; however, the majority of the time we can focus on one task and then move on to the other. Practice doing this with one task per day and notice the difference.
Linger Over Your Food
Take your time when eating something. Allow yourself to fully taste it. You’ll eat less (Every dieter’s dream, right?). You’ll probably find that you never actually enjoyed the taste of some things you were eating in the first place. And the best part, you’ll truly savor a most enjoyable experience. Foodies-whilst annoying at times-really get this.
This has become a movement for good reason. There are many benefits to having a clean, easy to maneuver living space. One of which is that it saves you time, which allows you to slow down. Physical space also creates life space. You don’t have to rush around looking for your missing sock. You won’t trip over the dog’s toy and spend time nursing the injury.
Now slowing down isn't easy if you're used to moving at warp speed. Even after a fairly serious injury (related to my speedster ways) forced me to slow down for some time I still frequently find myself speeding up again and again. Yet this is always when life becomes more difficult for me. So I employ one (or all if I'm really ambitious) strategies and the relief is almost instantaneous. I guarantee you'll have the same experience if you give it a shot.