The pace at which we tend to live our lives in North America can be dizzying. We try to cram activity into every minute because we feel we are wasting time otherwise. We live in the Age of Instant—an age of fast food, fast cars, fast internet connections, immediate access to news, weather and sports updates, and minute-to-minute coverage of the minutia of our family and friends’ lives in one-hundred and forty characters or less. Speed is the name of the game.
But there are down sides to this mile-a-minute pace. We find ourselves too rushed to spend quality time with our loved ones. We lose out on the opportunities for self-improvement when we don’t give ourselves the time for reflection and meditation. We fail to be present in the moment when our minds our racing with the next twelve things we “need” to get to. We risk burning ourselves out physically and mentally when we never allow ourselves the chance to rest and recharge. Our need for instant gratification can lead to frustration and disappointment. We risk massive debt and bankruptcy as we live beyond our means because we want and expect everything now.
Slowing down takes practice and discipline. Here are some ideas to get you started. Leave your own ideas in the comment section below!
- Chew more. I used to be notorious for inhaling my food (I blame being one of 8 children in my family and the need to eat quickly before the food ran out). But I’m trying to be better at slowing down by chewing more. It’s better for digestion, allows you to savour the food more, and helps to keep you from overeating.
- Host a dinner party with multiple courses. This one’s related to #1. Mealtimes have become akin to Formula-1 drivers making a pit stop to refuel. The faster you can scarf down your dinner, the faster you can be out on the track again. Some of my favourite times though have been with my friend, Jordan’s, parents who have had me over for dinner a few times. The whole evening is a series of different courses, nothing is rushed and it’s understood that the dinner is the activity. It’s such a relaxed and social approach to eating that allows for great conversation and quality time. This is something I think we definitely need to do more often.
- Get a “slow” hobby. One way to stop rushing through everything in our lives as quickly as possible is to take up an activity that requires a more thoughtful and deliberate approach. Hobbies like painting, whittling, gardening, restoring an old car, etc. are all things that require process and patience and help to reveal the value of the journey over just the destination.
- Watch a sunset. Make plans with a friend to go to a park or the beach and watch the sun set (it may be a bit chilly to do this now, I agree). No running around, no surfing the internet—just relaxing and witnessing the passage of time.
- Listen to slow music. After a frantic day at the office or school, it can be hard to slow the brain down and transition to rest mode. Put on some jazz, classical or otherwise mellow music to help soothe the whirling dervish in your head.
- Breathe. Get into the habit of taking some time to clear your head by focusing on your breathing. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for seven counts, and slowly blow out for eight counts. Repeat this four times in a row twice a day.
- Learn from other cultures. I’ve been raised as a punctuality extremist by my mother. So my travels to Africa and South America, where time and schedules are much less rigid concepts, were quite challenging. However, the more relaxed pace found elsewhere in the world can also be refreshing, and can help us soften our obsession with time and speed.
- Send a hand-written letter once a month. Handwriting is fast becoming a lost art. Our correspondence nowadays with our nearest and dearest is being dominated by text messages, Tweets and Facebook status updates. Getting out a pen and paper and writing someone a physical letter once in a while is a fun way to slow down and engage in a more thoughtful and meaningful way.
- Go on a photo walk. How often have you speed-walked or zipped through your neighbourhood in your car without ever taking in your surroundings? Get to know your community a bit better and practice being present by taking your camera with you on a walk through your neighbourhood. Take your time, stop and take pictures, and force yourself to get out of your head and into the moment.
- Drive slower. I remember driving home along the 401 last year when an impatient woman, fed up with being stuck in traffic, decided to use the shoulder to weave in and out of traffic. I fought back the urge to give her the finger as she zipped by me and disappeared into the distance. Some time later, when the traffic finally let up, I drove past an accident—thankfully a minor fender-bender. Behind the wheel of one of the cars was the impatient woman—and she wasn’t going anywhere. Good ol’ Karma. Slow down. You’ll get there.
Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.