Go Slower, Be Happier
Do you reach for your phone to check emails the second you’ve wiped the sleep from your eyes? Perhaps you’re an adept multi-tasker, capable of juggling an entire dinner service worth of tasks, but never able to step back and savour your accomplishments. If you feel things have reached something of a critical mass, perhaps it’s time to take stock and assess how to make some beneficial changes by following a few of these helpful tips for a slower, and happier, life:
Learn to Edit
While slowing down is the focus of our attention here, it’s also true that there are some things you just simply cannot, not do; there are kids to be collected from school, meetings to attend, appointments to be kept and groceries to purchase. This is where it makes sense to be smart with how you allocate your time. Take a look at your schedule and work out what you can cut. Sometimes it pays to find ways to economise the time spent on menial tasks in order to be able to spend longer on more fulfilling tasks. Plan ahead, write lists and organise your thoughts so you can be clear about what you are going to do, and what you want to achieve from each task. For example, whizzing around a supermarket on the fly after work can be stressful and result in impulse purchases your waistband won’t thank you for. Taking time out to plan some meals for the week ahead, and the simple act of writing a grocery list and even ordering some items online – particularly bulky items and dry goods – can help to make grocery shopping more enjoyable and less of a grab-and-go affair when you hit the store in person.
Quality or Quantity?
There are times when you can have too much of a good thing and perhaps never more so when it comes to relationships. If you have a tendency to bounce from one intense relationship to the next, falling hard and fast before most people have got to their third date, only to break up a few months later, perhaps it’s time to rethink your strategy. According to a recent study by Cornell University, taking things slowly, i.e. not rushing into physical relationships and cohabitation, is key to a longer lasting and more satisfying marriage. The admittedly contentious findings showed that couples who cohabited and engaged in premarital sex early in a relationship and then went on to marry were less likely to feel satisfied down the line. This was particularly so for women. It may seem something of an old fashioned notion by modern dating standards, but with divorce rates on the rise across the globe, there might just be something more than merely teasing to the art of playing hard to get.
It may seem completely obvious, but awakening to the chime of your cell phone will only provide the temptation to get online within seconds of waking up. Gathering your thoughts, thinking about what you want to achieve for the day and getting yourself in the right frame of mind to do that will be far easier to accomplish if your mind isn’t programmed from the get-go with what other people are doing, saying and thinking. We’ve all been there too: when that seemingly innocuous but irritating email has the capacity to put us in an antsy frame of mind before we’ve downed our first cup of coffee. While it’s not really feasible to suggest we disconnect completely, try issuing yourself with a ‘shutting off’ rule toward the end of the day too, which has you focusing on family, a class, exercise or even a bath with a good book; basically anything that stimulates in ways internet and email won’t. Incorporating a little lo-tech into your life again, such as an alarm clock or a real book, can be surprisingly therapeutic.
Focus on the Present
Don’t rush through a task with your mind on what you have to do next. Really focus on what you are doing right now, be aware of your own senses, thoughts and responses as you complete each task and learn to ‘own’ that moment.
Take a Lunch Break
In some cultures, lunch breaks are sacred and taken by the majority; in other cultures, the lunch break has eroded to the point where it’s considered more a badge of honour to be seen powering through lunch with a box of sushi in one hand and telephone in the other. A recent study published in the Academy of Management Journal found this isn’t always necessarily a bad thing; rather, the crucial factor when determining whether a lunch activity made employees feel energized or fatigued was that of choice, and the degree of control the employee felt they had over their lunch break activities. It’s clear, however, that pressure to perform work-related tasks is stronger if you are seated at your desk. By physically separating yourself from the work environment for a set amount of time – even just 20 minutes – you are permitting yourself to socialize, disengage, refocus and recharge, while taking on new perspectives that will likely prove more beneficial to your overall wellbeing.
Be More Self-Sufficient
That doesn’t necessarily mean going off-grid and raising livestock, but taking time to grow a few herbs or vegetables (even if it’s on your balcony), baking your own bread, making clothes or simply buying fewer processed and mass-manufactured goods are all fantastic ways to take a slower approach to life that will benefit you and the environment. Not only will you acquire new skills, you’ll learn to savour and appreciate your efforts far more in the process. Learning to fix things that are broken rather than throwing them away is another way to contribute to your own skill set, and is less wasteful too. If your DIY skills are limited and home crafting isn’t for you, consider purchasing more locally produced, artisan-made goods or supporting those that do.
When we’re busy, stressed and rushing around, it’s quite common to feel a shortness of breath and the sensation of a weight bearing down on our chests. Shallow breathing will prevent oxygen from reaching vital organs, making the heart work harder and causing us to feel anxious, dizzy and more stressed. In some extreme cases, this can lead to stronger anxiety attacks and even temporary blackouts. Be aware of when you reach this point and learn to take a moment to stop, focus and try this simple breathing technique: Sit down with legs uncrossed and feet slightly apart, chin up and back straight, while lengthening the spine and relaxing the shoulders. Then, place a hand gently on your tummy and take a deep breath in through the nose, purse lips and blow out through the mouth, pushing the air out as though deep in your abdomen. Your tummy should be doing the pushing, not the chest. Repeat several times. Think of how you breathe when very relaxed or falling asleep. This is what to aim for.
By taking some of these tips on board it’s possible to incorporate a little ‘go-slow’ into your routine and hopefully reap the benefits with a more balanced and fulfilling life experience.