Slow, Simple, and Soulful

This August savor slowing down. Instead of go, go, go; think slow, slow, slow!

Try Slow Living! This is something that not many of us are used to. Most of lives are affected by the “disease of speed” that we encounter each day. Things just continue to feel as if they get faster with technology, the feeling of overwhelm and never ending to-do lists. The world is stuck in fast forward. It’s a world of quick fixes, instant gratification and speed. Unfortunately we are moving so fast that we don’t even notice how damaging living like this is. We fail to notice the toll it takes on our health, relationships, diet, work, environment, and community. Many of us are living the fast life instead of the good life. We wonder why when we finally take a vacation, we get sick. Unfortunately, it usually takes a wakeup call for one to notice and change their ways.

If we don’t listen to our bodies and to our inner wisdom that is telling us to slow down we may succumb to the myriad of health conditions that are a result of leading fast, stressful lives. Physically, the costs of ignoring stress are staggering, manifesting in cardiovascular and other diseases. Psychologically stress causes anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other emotional illnesses. And, some psychologists say that going fast is a way of avoiding what we don’t want to deal with but that is a whole other conversation!

The question is, Is it possible to slow down?

From my perspective, it is. I owned a business in a city for 14 years. I recently moved from a suburban area on the outskirts of a city to a rural area in Western Massachusetts. Within two months of being here, I felt a major shift. And yes, the environment has had an impact on this change for me, but I also realize that my behaviors have changed. Don’t worry, you don’t have to move to the mountains to find opportunities to slow down! Here are some ideas for you:

1.     Pay Attention.
To be simplistic, the solution is to pay attention, on purpose, in a systematic way, in the present moment. That is, be mindful. Mindful living is a way of life that encourages people to find calm by connecting with the present moment, just as it is. 

Job Kabat-Zinn says “Mindfulness is a certain way of paying attention that is healing, that is restorative, that is reminding you of who you actually are so that you don’t wind up getting entrained into being a human doing rather than a human being.”

As much as possible, pay attention to what is happening in each moment. Notice your body, breath, thoughts, energy, environment, those around you, etc. Look for details. Try to notice something new and different. Be curious.

2.     Eat Slowly

In Marc David’s book The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, & Weight Loss he explains that when moving through life so fast, we inevitably eat too fast which affects the efficiency of our metabolism and creates digestive problems. That stress has a direct effect on metabolism. He says “simply put, the same part of our brain that turns on stress turns off digestion. And conversely, the part of the brain that turns on the relaxation response turns on full, healthy digestive power.” So by slowing down and relaxing the mind and body, you will have better digestion and a more efficient metabolism.

3.     Connect with Nature

Go outside. Take a walk. Breathing in fresh air can lift your mood and energy and can also ease ailments like depression, stress, diabetes, and addiction. For me, being outdoors always centers me, fills me with gratitude, provides a sense of wellbeing, and shows me what an amazing world we live in. The beauty of nature keeps me humble and reminds me that there is something so much bigger than me at work in this universe. When in nature, I instantly want to slow down.

4.     Monotask

Busier is not best. Research shows that multitasking, which really is “shift tasking” because our brains can’t actually do two things that require discernment at the same time, reduces productivity by 40%. It is true when they say less is more.

One of my favorite quotes eloquently said by Albert Einstein is “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” We can’t do two things at the same time well. When we multitask, we are not actually fully present to any of the things we are doing. Realistically, it's about striking a balance between doing what is needed each day but also giving each task and person the presence that they deserve.

5.     Take a Technology Break

Recently I was astounded to learn that, according to the research group Dscout, we touch our phones around 2,617 times a day or 2.5 hours per day, while heavier users up to 4 hours per day. Plus, we all know using phones and tablets are pretty addictive. So, let’s look at the math. Just say you are going to use your phone for another 35 years of your life, using your phone at the rate of 2.5 hours a day, you will spend over 9 months of your life looking at your phone. At a rate of 4 hours per day, you will lose 14 months of your life to your phone usage*. This is pretty outrageous. Wouldn’t you rather use those 9 – 14 months doing other things in this precious life of yours?

So take a break. Limit your technology usage. Turn your phone off, the world will continue on while you actually experience life instead of reading about it on social media.

*Calculations based on “awake hours” assuming individuals get an average of 7 hours sleep per night.

6.     Savor Moments

In Carl Honoré's 2004 book, In Praise of Slowness, he describes the Slow Movement; "It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail's pace. It's about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting."

Once I was working on my computer and my young son was pestering me about something. “Mom, mom, mom…”. I just kept typing and saying “hold on buddy, I’m in the middle of something.” This went on for a few minutes until I became annoyed. I kept on typing and asked him what was so important? He responded, “I just wanted to tell you that I really love you mommy”. I stopped. In that moment, I realized that I was missing these precious moments. We need to ask ourselves, what is really important?

Not only will slowing down enhance our health and well-being, but by going slow we can make our lives more simple and soulful. I encourage you to find quality in your moments instead of letting life pass you by.