I’ve been known to tell people that I’m so busy, I don’t have time to breathe. It might be an exaggeration, but there are some days when I simply have way too much on my plate. By day’s end, the day is a blur . . . and, as busy as I was, I flop into bed feeling I’ve done nothing remarkable nor worth remembering.
It’s an irony of our modern lives that, while new technology saves us time, we use the time to do more and more things that, in turn, make our lives more hectic than ever.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Where there is life there should be balance; and the only way to balance is to slow down and breathe.
A slower-paced life means enjoying your mornings instead of rushing off to work in a frenzy. It means taking time during a chaotic day to savor moments. It means finding the joy in whatever you’re doing—whether it’s a mundane chore or something wonderful and out of the ordinary.
“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast; you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” —Eddie Cantor
When you slow down, you begin to notice things you took for granted before. You pay closer attention and have a heightened awareness. You better appreciate the outdoors, enjoy leisurely meals, and actually pay attention to what people are saying, connecting with them on more personal levels.
Adopting a slower pace is the way to a simpler, more-rewarding life. It helps develop the sense of gratitude within us that makes each day and everything we do more meaningful and satisfying.
Ten Ways to Slow Down
- Do less. It’s hard to slow down when you have a million things to do. Make a conscious effort to do less. Put space between meetings, appointments, and tasks so you can move through your days at a more leisurely pace. Try doing only one thing at a time. Or focus on only those things that are important, the things that need to get done, and let go of the rest.
- Be present. It’s not enough to just slow down; you also need to be mindful of what you’re doing at the moment. If you find yourself thinking about something else—something that needs to be done or something that’s already happened or something that might happen—gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Focus on what you are doing, on your present actions, on your environment, on those people with or around you. This takes practice, but is essential.
- Disconnect. If you carry an iPhone, Blackberry, or other mobile device, shut it off. Better yet, leave it behind whenever possible. Being connected via technology all the time means you are flooded with incoming information, messages, and phone calls. It’s hard to stay in the moment with these constant distractions; and it’s impossible to stay connected to those you are with when, for instance, your phone rings and you have to take the call.
- Focus on others. Too often we spend time with family, friends, or colleagues, and we’re not really there with them. We’re talking to them, but our minds are on other things. With conscious effort you can shut off the outside world and stay in the moment for more-meaningful connections.
- Appreciate nature. It doesn’t take much to realize how soothing nature is. Eat your lunch outside. Take walks in the park or around the block. Sit in your own backyard and watch the ducks play in the pond. Cares drift away when you feel the warmth of the sun or soft breezes on your skin. Take a deep breath of fresh air and learn to enjoy the world around you.
- Eat and drink slowly. Linger over meals. Set the table and treat yourself to meals served on your best china. You have to eat, so you might as well eat well. Take time to taste the food. Be mindful of every bite. Appreciate the flavors and textures. Food tastes better when it’s eaten slowly, and eating slowly has the added benefit of making you feel fuller on less food.
- Drive slower. In our fast-paced world, everyone’s in a hurry to get somewhere. Instead, make it a habit to slow down and drive safely. Be aware of what’s going on around you. Use the time to listen to music or a good audio book.
- Find pleasure in everything. Whether you’re washing dishes or saddled with some other mundane chore, instead of rushing through it, find something to enjoy. Feel the sudsy dish water. Smell the newly-cut grass. Enjoy the warmth of clean clothes fresh from the dryer.
- Single-task. It’s impossible not to multi-task to some extent. We are only human with external influences that are often beyond our control. But when you switch back-and-forth between a multitude of tasks, you can’t concentrate on any of them. Try doing one thing at a time. When you feel the urge to switch to another task . . . pause, breathe, and pull yourself back. Finish what you’re doing first.
- Breathe. When you find yourself speeding up and stressing out . . . pause and take a deep breath. Then, take a couple more. Feel the air coming into your body and the stress leaving. By focusing fully on each breath, you can bring yourself back to the present and slow yourself down.
“Let us spend one day as deliberately as nature, and not be thrown off track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or break fast, gently and without perturbation; let company come and let company go; let the bells ring and the children cry; determine to make a day of it.” —Henry David Thoreau
Pause . . . breathe . . . enjoy.