Slowing down is radical in this day and age. An age where…
…we burn with frustration if a website doesn’t load instantly.
…we think taking a nap is a sign of laziness.
…we check our email, facebook, twitter 15 times a day.
…we eat instant oatmeal for breakfast, frozen meals for lunch, and order takeout for dinner.
…we lose sleep over an upcoming deadline.
…we even take our own lives because the pressure to perform is too much to handle.
Breaking these habits can be difficult. But why is that?
We fear that something bad will happen if things don’t get done. To calm that fear we work harder, and longer, and harder, and longer only to realize that there’s more to do.
It never ends.
If you’re tired of the grind, let me suggest you step back and take an honest assessment of what needs to be done. Letting go of the compulsion to do all things can be an awesomely liberating high. Simply choose what’s most important, and do that. Even simpler, choose to do the things you are passionate about, and drop the rest.
If life in the slow lane appeals to you, here are some easy steps to escape the rat race and enjoy a slower, simpler, happier life:
#1 – Breathe
Breathing involves a set of metabolic reactions that are required for the cells in our body to convert energy into ATP and then release the byproducts through exhaled air.
Proper breathing is necessary from a physical perspective, as it dictates the quality of life that you live. It’s the most essential part of human survival and the brain is consuming 20% of your supply of oxygen by consuming 20% of the supply of blood in your body.
Anything that negatively affects breathing, should be eliminated from your life. Things like smoking, over-eating, and stress all have a negative impact on our ability to optimize breathing.
There are a variety of breathing techniques that you could use to help you slow down and enjoy your life. All you have to do is focus on your breath – breathe in through the nose, hold that breath, then breathe out through the mouth.
#2 – Be Present
It’s hard to slow down and enjoy life when we’re constantly living in the past or worrying about the future. We have to be present if we want to get any joy out of life. While being present might be hard for some, there are a few simple techniques that you can use to achieve this.
First and foremost is gratitude. By having a profound appreciation for your life and everything in it, no matter what the problems might be, you can reap far more enjoyment out of simple pleasures. Problems will never disappear.
Waiting for problems to disappear before we slow down and enjoy life is akin to waiting until we die. The only time we’ll lack any problems is when we’re buried six feet under. But it’s gratitude in the here-and-now that allows us to appreciate what we do have rather than what we don’t have.
Being present can also be achieved through things like exercise, yoga, and meditation. Physical activity has a way of jolting you into the present moment. It also helps you take back control of your health and fitness, resulting in a happier and healthier you.
#3 – Less is More
Life can become cluttered with too many things. With so many things going on in our lives, and with the accumulation of so much “stuff,” how are we ever expected to slow down? When we’re racing from one transaction to another, never really reaping the benefits of happiness, how can we ever enjoy life?
Simplify. Declutter. Organize.
Purge the “things” from your home, your office, and your life. Get back down to the basics. Create a set of goals and a mission statement for what you want to achieve out of life. Every morning, recite those to yourself and in the evening before you go to sleep, ask yourself if you came any closer to attaining it.
Dwindle your to-do list down to the items that really matter. Take pleasure from the things in life that really matter: family, relationships, and connectedness. We’re only here for a very brief time. We mustn’t clutter that time with too many things.
#4 – Drive Slower
Our minds are constantly racing and we’re distracted by our 24/7 interconnectedness. Because of it, we do everything else quickly, including driving our cars too fast. We’re always rushing to get from one place to the next with no end in sight. My recent speeding ticket was a reminder of this for me!
According to studies, 1.3 million people die in car accidents every year and another 20-50 million people become injured or disabled because of it. While not all accidents are avoidable, we can do our part to slow down and pay more attention to our surroundings.
When we’re distracted, we become more careless. There’s a reason why texting while driving is illegal in most places now. Slow down and drive slower, even when no one else is looking. Enjoy your surroundings and appreciate the world that you live in.
#5 – Avoid Multi-Tasking
We’re notorious for our ability to multi-task. We love to do several things at once as opposed to one thing at a time. But, in order to slow down and enjoy life, we have to focus on doing one thing at a time and doing it the right way.
This means that we have to go above and beyond the call of duty, even when no one is watching. The general consensus is to try to get things done quickly and “efficiently,” even if that sometimes means sacrificing quality.
When you find the desire to do many things at once, pause and breathe for a moment. Take a mental step backwards and refocus your efforts. Hone your skill and commit to doing and completing that one task to the best of your ability.
#6 – Eliminate Distractions
When was the last time you disconnected from the Web? When was the last time you sat and enjoyed a conversation over a meal without a device blaring somewhere in your reach? I would argue that it’s been a while.
Yet, if we’re to slow down and enjoy life, we have to eliminate distractions. We have to cancel the noise. We have to disconnect all of our devices. This doesn’t mean you have to go offline for good; it just means you have to block off some personal time.
Whether you engage in a hobby or have an in-person chat with a friend, cancel out all the noise surrounding you. Turn off the TV, disconnect the Internet, power down the tablet, and turn off the smartphone. Did I miss anything?
You’ll be far happier when you do this for a short period in your day. Take an hour or even two hours to just disconnect and eliminate distractions.