How to Master the Art of Slowing Down
My daughter is moving out to start college in a little more than 2 weeks, (17 days, but who’s counting) and there is nothing I want to do more than freeze this time we have together. This summer has been a magical time for our family.
Living in a new, smaller space we’ve been spending more time together and really enjoying our new life in the city. By removing things like:
- big house
- high utility bills
- property taxes
- clutter and other stuff …
we have even more time and attention to spend with each other. Because I realize that freezing time isn’t realistic, I’ve decided to master the art of slowing down to enjoy each moment instead of rushing through to get to the next.
It is our nature to be on two speeds: sleeping and go.go.go. As a society, we put so much value on getting things done, that everyone is moving at an unsustainable speed to do it all. Everything suffers as a result including:
- the quality of the things we are doing because of our rushed state
- our connections and conversations because we are so distracted
- our own health as stress and burnout robs our energy and threatens our physical, mental and emotional health
8 Essential Lessons for Mastering the Art of Slowing Down
1. Wake up slowly
Instead of rolling out of bed and into your life, set your alarm clock 10 minutes early and take time to welcome the day. 10 minutes of gentle stretching, making your bed and drinking a glass of water will remove the rush and noise and set the tone for the rest of your day. If you think you need coffee, morning news or a dive into the email abyss before getting dressed, trade your habits for 7 days and see what feels better, not only in the morning, but all through the day. Create a morning routine with a focus on moving more intentionally throughout the day.
2. Identify what is most important
In The Power of Less, Leo Babauta recommends choosing three most important tasks for the day and doing them first. Look at your to-do list. Chances are there are more than three things on that list and maybe more than three pages. What would happen you had a list of only three? As you ease into doing less, try rewarding yourself for staying focused on your three most important things first by taking a reading break, walk or nap before you move on to anything else.
3. Stop eating in your car
When you use time in your car to catch up on everything you don’t have time for, you compromise your peace of mind and your safety. Until I realized that the only thing I needed to do in my car was drive, I thought it was the best place for distraction free work/lunch/phone calls and anything else that I didn’t have time for during the day. Once you establish your car as a food free/phone free zone, you can focus on driving and enjoy the time you have to slow down between appointments or destinations. If the idea of only driving while you are in your car seems impossible, something’s gotta give.
4. Choose people first
My mind chooses people first, but my actions don’t always represent that. If I am writing or working and someone interrupts me, I might throw out one of these go away phrases:
- in a minute
- give me a sec
- I’ll be done in 5 minutes and then I can talk
Think about when you use those phrases. Maybe you use them while working, but what about when you are checking Facebook, watching TV, doing laundry, or other things that may be way less important than people. It’s frustrating to be distracted, but it’s even more frustrating and hurtful to be dismissed. You can limit the need to use these phrases by setting loose expectations and letting people know what you need, and then by letting go of what you need for a minute, a sec or 5 minutes to give the people you love what they need. The need you.
5. Release regret
Every minute you spend wishing you had done things differently or being mad that things didn’t turn out better is time that you could spend …
- being grateful
- writing a letter
- hugging someone you love
- enjoying a meal
- taking a walk
- creating something beautiful
- helping someone
Wallowing in regret might be a sign that you don’t know what matters most to you right now. Redirect your attention to figuring it out. It will change everything and you deserve that.
6. Cultivate dolce far niente
Doing nothing is hard work for some and it takes practice. Dolce far niente is the sweetness of doing nothing and is an art form in itself. There are no rules, but when you begin to do nothing, keep in mind that the opposite of busy is not lazy. The opposite of busy is solitude. The opposite of being busy is being loving and grateful. The opposite of busy is stillness. All of those opposites are essential for your health, happiness and relationships.
7. Dump your fear of missing out
I am on a little trip with my daughter for a couple of days and we’ve been talking about all of the different things we can do. Today we could go hiking, swimming, take an alpine slide ride, explore the town, watch a movie, go out to eat, go bowling, and the list goes on and on. Instead we decided to hang out by the pool if it’s sunny and watch movies in bed if it’s rainy. We will miss several activities and options, but without the pressure of scheduling the day or bouncing from activity to activity we can truly enjoy the time we have together.
You miss opportunities all day long by choosing things that matter most, but what you will miss by trying to doing it all and have it all can never be replaced.
8. Breathe and start over
Return to the art of slow whenever you feel rushed or scattered. As soon as you notice that you are lost in the busyness of the day or your life, stop. Simply pause, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you can choose slow.
_ _ _
Speed and busyness is overrated. If we could put less value on the amount of things we get done and more value on how we treat people, including ourselves, perhaps we can master the art of slow. The next moment will come on its own time. For now, enjoy the one that is right in front of you.
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