Why You Should Live A Bit Slower
At the end of the day, it’s about choosing to be a bit more mindful of where you spend your time, energy, and other resources. And it has big benefits.
The reminders are issued daily, if not hourly, to your kids. Take your time. Don’t rush. Just think for one second. They need to hear this advice since they’re all impulsive. But how much do you follow up on it yourself?
Probably not often. But varying the pace is important, so much so that there’s a movement that’s committed to slow living. Despite the name, it’s not about dialing everything down to a crawl. It’s more about slowing down your head enough to decide what pace makes the most sense for the particular task you’re taking on, something worth considering.
“Different tasks take different levels of mobilized energy,” says Beth Kurland, clinical psychologist and author of The Transformative Power of 10 Minutes.
Ignore that and you’ll start making dumb mistakes, miss useful information, and eventually burn out. But slow living involves more than adjusting your speed. When you shop, you buy products that are local and organic. When you travel, you explore one place rather than skitter about. With clothes, you have a core wardrobe and buy secondhand. With home projects, you use native materials.
The above is good to keep you present but doing such a deep dive isn’t always possible or practical from a time, energy, and money standpoint. But the idea of being more mindful is helpful for getting the most out of an experience, and there are simple ways to weave that approach into your day. Here are four to consider.
1. Set Your Pace
With kids, work, and everything else, it’s easy to move from task to task without any pause. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, and sometimes your mind needs to figure out how the afternoon is going to come together. But it’s not healthy or beneficial to continually be disconnected from the moment.
“You can’t be alive in any other time but the present,” says Kristin Neff, associate professor of educational psychology at University of Texas and author of Fierce Self-Compassion.
To get there, it starts with asking yourself, what do I need right now? Simply posing the question brings awareness and the chance to consider another approach. And the answer is not always to ease up. Fast can be exciting and slow can be boring. But you’re now back in control, which brings security and a sense of warmth, she says.
But answering the above question doesn’t suddenly mean you’re locked in. It takes practice, and it helps to remind yourself to be present with whatever sticky note or phone alarm works. Concentrating on your body – your breath, your feet on the ground – can also help. And when your mind inevitably wanders, cut yourself a break by putting your hand on your heart and saying, “Oh well. Tried my best.”
“Just intersperse those little moments,” Neff says. “It helps you get less carried away by negative emotions.”
2. Get To “No”
Intertwined with setting your own pace is the ability to say, “No”. It could be to people or work, but it’s another hard thing to do because, chances are, you’ve been conditioned to always be the guy who never, ever disappoints, Kurland says.
What makes it harder is that you feel your value is linked to how much you deliver, so any deviation feels uncomfortable. But try imagining making the choice and watching if your body gets tense or excited by the prospect. It doesn’t mean you have to or can turn down every stressful offer, but now you’re at least more aware.
The other helpful thing is rather than concentrating on “No”, think about what saying “Yes” will bring, like more time with your spouse or being able to coach your kid’s team. When you’re focused on the negative, the flight or flight response activates, but when you’re looking at the positives, there’s less need to be in protective mode.
“It gets you out of the threat physiology,” Kurland says.
3. Hit the Local Stores
Sometimes, it makes sense to just hit “Buy”. You avoid traffic and reclaim time for better things. But there are upsides to going to an actual shop. For instance, it supports local businesses and you want those to exist for the last-minute birthday gift or when your eyeglasses need repair.
But the bigger thing is you get out of the house, and you end up seeing people you know and you’re reminded that you know people. You might get some advice, an offer to help, an idea for summer camp — stuff that won’t happen from your kitchen table.
“It allows you to be connected,” Neff says. “What makes us happy is to feel cared for, loved, and to feel like we belong.”
4. Go For A Focused Walk
You might get enough of it with your dog, but there’s a benefit in going outside without earbuds or the need to achieve something. Your mind gets freed up, then it can wander and the ideas bubble up. But here’s a tweak: Take one of your kids with you. They might resist because walks are what adults do, which means they’re boring. Maybe you have to sweeten the offer with a trip to the convenience store, but eventually – hopefully – they’ll accept the rhythm and unplug.
You two get alone time, they get your attention, and you’re side-by-side — a less threatening position. You’re also out of the house and they’re away from the regular requests to do homework, clean rooms, and share with siblings. It could lead to sharing, and even if it’s nothing revelatory, it’s a shift in your usual dynamic.
“There’s no other agenda,” Kurland says. “It just creates an open space. No demands. No expectations.”
Overall, there’s other one thing to keep in mind with slowing down. Regardless of your intention, it’s not always in your full control. Often, the environment will set limits, like with a walk where you can only go in so many directions.
Rather than worry about whether you chose the right intensity or speed, just ask yourself, How does it feel? If it’s causing distress, then go right, slow down, or speed up. But if you don’t feel a problem, then there’s really no problem.
The check-in is overlooked but it gets you off autopilot, so you’re no longer doing things merely because that’s how you’ve been doing things.
“Asking the question is an act of care,” Neff says. “You’re halfway there.”