I have always been one of those people that enjoy quiet and solitude. With that being said, that doesn’t mean my life has been spent in quiet contemplation or quietly reading books all day (much to my utter disappointment). I, like many others have been living a frantic pace of work, commitments, family obligations and other time sucking activities. I have realized though that this current frenzied pace of life is unsustainable. I became aware of a constant thrum of disquiet within myself, and began to desperately crave something easier, slower.
So, I made a promise to myself to learn to listen to my body and pay attention to the cycle of my days, lest I risk succumbing to the health problems associated with stress, anxiety and overwhelm: exhaustion, depression, heart problems, insomnia, premature aging, and cancer. I decided that it is okay to slow down.
You may be wondering to yourself how to do this. You may be thinking that there’s no way that you can slow down because you’ve got so much to do, so many obligations. In terms of slow living, I have found that it really helps to break down the idea and examine the root of it. Slow Living means structuring your life around meaning and fulfillment. Doesn’t that sound so much better and achievable? When you take the time to really analyze the idea slow living, at the root it’s very, very simple. Our job is simply to pay attention in the given moment to the things in our environment and how they affect us. Once you do that, you will soon learn to avoid the things that make you feel poorly, and seek out the things that help you feel joy. The goal is awareness and choosing to structure your days in a way that helps you find peace, mindfulness and balance.
8 Tips for creating a slow life.
1. Do not over-commit. If you feel like you are constantly running from place to place, try taking a long, hard look at your schedule. Are all of the things on your schedule bringing you joy? Have you said “yes” to things when you really wanted to say “no”? Try to eliminate the things on your schedule that no longer bring you joy or are simply too much for you right now. If you are a parent whose children are constantly on the go, consider looking at their schedules too. There are numerous studies that conclude that over-scheduled kids may have more stress, anxiety and depression.
2. Learn to say “no”. Saying “no” is a tough one for me and one that gets easier with practice. Remember that just because someone has asked you to do something doesn’t mean that you should and trust me when I tell you that as soon as you say no, you will feel sweet relief. Don’t feel guilty for saying “no” either! Always take some time to consider the request before making a commitment if you are unsure. Ask yourself if you are willing or happy to give up the time that it will take. If it is something that you are really happy to do, great! Go for it! But if it is something that you would only say “yes” to out of guilt, you should say “no” and stand by your decision. You’ll be happy you did.
3. Define your priorities. Make a list of the things most important to you and then work on creating habits to live them out each day. Make sure that your priorities are really coming first in your life. Try this simple task to help you define your priorities.
- Make a list of the most important aspects of your life. These “aspects” will vary depending on your life, interests, priorities, etc. For most people, however, they tend to be things like family, personal/spiritual growth, health, career success/fulfillment, making a difference in the world, fun, money, friends/community, travel, adventure, creativity, home and more.
- Make a list of the things you spend most of your time doing and thinking about. Take inventory of the past few days, weeks and even months and make a list of where you spend the majority your time and attention. It’s important to tell the truth, even if you aren’t proud of some of the activities or thoughts that get a lot of your focus. With this list it’s important to rank them in some way so that you’re clear about which activities, thoughts and relationships get your attention specifically, and how much you devote to each of them.
- Compare the two lists and see how you can get them more aligned. As you compare these two lists — you may notice that they’re quite different. Often what we say is most important to us isn’t the same as where we devote much of our time, energy and thought.
In other words, be more conscious and do whatever you can to focus more on what truly matters to you!
4. Enjoy some guilt-free downtime. Stop feeling guilty about taking a break. Have some downtime. Enjoy it. Sit outside, take a walk, do nothing. Whatever you find relaxing, go ahead and take the time. It may only be 5 min. but take the time to breath, to notice and appreciate something around you.
5. Stay mindful. Choose to stay present and in the moment. Whatever you are doing, stay there instead of letting your mind wander. Think about what it looks like, feels life, and smells like. Take in the moment and own it.
6. Be Grateful. Practice being grateful. The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems. They also tend to feel a sense of abundance in their lives and recognize and enjoy life’s simple pleasures more….something that is important in living slow.
7. Spend quality time. Spend lots of quality time with the people you love. Be present (put down the cell phone) in these moments…have meals with together, share laughs, and enjoy the moments.
8. Get away from social media. This might be the hardest change to make, but if you really want to slow down and live more intentionally then you should endeavor to change your relationship with social media and take back the control. Turn off all notifications on every form of social media installed on your phone. Schedule a time of day to check your social media accounts and respond to any comments, tweets and/or messages and set a time limit for yourself as to how long you will devote each day to this. You might be surprised just how much time you save, and how much more real conversation you can have with the people close to you.