The Importance of Slowing Down and How to Actually Do It (Without Meditating)
So how are you? Do the phrases “super busy,” “crazy,” and “slammed” sound familiar? Most of us talk about how days are flying by, kids are growing up too fast, and how “that weekend was too short.” Reality is that we juggle full plates of work, endless chores, places to be and errands to run. Top that off with the attachment to our smartphones that keep our minds racing to respond to emails, acknowledge news alerts and incessantly tempt us to swipe through the latest instagram stories. Additionally, we are wolfing down our meals, in a hurry to get to almost everywhere we go and increasingly neglecting time for friends. I recently wrote a piece about how we have forgotten how to sit “idle” and do nothing and as a result, our minds are unable to be still, to be quiet and therefore, to slow down.
But slowing down is crucial for overall health. Be it sleep or recovery after a hard workout, the mind and body need time to recharge and recover. Being a person with high energy levels, this “slowing down” is personally difficult for me to do, but I’m getting better at it. Having spoken to researchers and coaches about the topic, I’ve learned to get more out of each day by trying to slow down the perception of how I feel time go by. Rather than flying auto-pilot every day to check the boxes off the daily burn agenda, try these 5 mindful practices that should help you feel like you’re stretching time a little more, while also offering you more happiness, gratitude and less stress:
1. Make Your Driving Time More Relaxing. I use to drive 45 minutes to and from work before the days of Bluetooth and iPhones. I would listen to books on tape (before I knew about podcasts) or the radio and be more aware of the cars, roads and neighborhoods around me. Instead of rushing out and trying to beat the lights, allow yourself an extra few minutes to enjoy the drive, take deep breaths, listen to something you love and look around.
2. Stop Thinking About Time as Money. Between running a business, raising two kids and staying fairly active, I rarely have time to read books as that is “leisure” time for me. As an entrepreneur, I feel that every minute of time I have needs to have a value on it and be associated with my work. But that shouldn’t be the case for every minute. In the last year, I have shifted this viewpoint to be more mindful and prioritize what matters most: enjoying longer dinners with my family, dedicating some time to yoga every week (the stretching and deep breathing have enriched my mind and body) and reading more books, which you’ll agree is more valuable that scanning the social networks during your last 20 minutes before bed. Try it with a book you feel you’ll enjoy. Coincidentally, I’m currently reading, Peak Performance, a #1 new release on Amazon that is about avoiding burnout, rethinking stress and getting the most out of ourselves in a healthy and sustainable manner.
3. If it’s not a Heck Yea, Say “No.” Rather than trying to please everyone and commit to every work event, social event or school activity, set some boundaries and say no to the ones that are not as important. Use this extra time for yourself. Go for a walk, read part of your book, or enjoy the process of cooking an exciting meal, as opposed to just ordering takeout or picking up something “convenient.” You’ll find that this “me time” as I call it, helps you slow down time. It’s not quite vacation but if you think about it, you never really feel the days fly by while you’re on vacation, so consider this time a mini-vacation during the day, your one-hour for yourself.
4. Eat Slowly. I’m just as guilt about shoveling food in my mouth hovering over my computer, as most of us are; however, I am increasingly about eating slower, chewing every bite and giving myself a few minutes after I finish to determine if I am still hungry or not. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register that you have eaten and feel full, but we rarely allow this time before we grab another snack, order a latte or continue to eat. Eating more consciously promotes a healthy digestive system and will likely keep you from overeating.
5. Work Smarter. My favorite mantra is “Be where your feet are,” in other words, be present at that time. My second favorite mantra is to “Work Smarter” as opposed to telling myself how busy I am. I make an effort to limit multi-tasking, am focused on having a game plan for every day, and have learned some tips to tackle the biggest culprit: email. I disconnect from it a couple times per day and focus on what I am writing, who I am speaking to or simply, enjoying a moment. I’ve talked about how I put my phone down in the morning, alongside other productivity tips and trust me, if something is truly urgent, people will text or call.
Of course you can meditate, disconnect and practice related activities to rest and recharge, but most important is to ensure that you are making time that is important to YOU each and every day. I think back to childhood when much of time was spent simply playing on the playground or even in college, before iPhones, my husband-then-boyfriend and I would take 30 minutes in between classes to lie on the grass, stare at the sky and have conversations. We had no distractions except for the blue sky above us, and time actually, did not feel like it was flying. Today, those memories of staring at the sky are the strongest because we had incredibly engaging and creative conversations. It makes me realize that for next weekend, despite attending swim practices and baseball games, I just might need to grab my two boys and husband, lay us all down on the grass, in our backyard, and take turns telling stories and laughing together. The days may be flying but we will at least be able to slow down how we perceive this valuable commodity called time.