The Art of Slowing Down

Written by: Scott Dinsmore

Average Reading Time: 3 minutes

Five days ago I sat on top of a 14,000 ft. mountain taking in the most breathtaking view I’d experienced in years. I was on top of Mt. Shasta in Northern California and I’d spent the past two full days camping on snow and climbing with crampons and an ice axe to get myself to the top.

Do you know what the best part about it was? There was no rush.

With as badly as I wanted to make it to the top, there was absolutely no hurry. In fact I had no choice but to go slowly. If I didn’t, my legs would tire, I’d risk slipping and my lungs wouldn’t acclimate to the thinning oxygen. The faster you go, the more dangerous the trek. Where else in life is going slowly so strongly encouraged and even enforced? That’s what made my experience up there so perfect.

There was no rush. There couldn’t be. And I loved it.

When was the last time you felt no hurry in doing something? For many of us it’s been too long.

But do we ever really gain anything from rushing? I’ve found that hurrying immediately creates stress in my body. Even if I just run to the mailbox down the street and then walk back. Just the act of rushing can trigger stress and anxiety. Being a few seconds ahead of schedule is not nearly worth the price we pay inside.

Rushing gives us the feeling like we’re getting more done but often it’s just the opposite.

All this hurrying from one thing to the next takes a toll on our bodies. It’s become too commonplace and we are in need of some recovery. Slowing down is something I’ve be working on more than anything this past year and I’d like to share what small things have helped the most.

12 Simple Ways to Slow Down:

1. Climb a mountain. This was amazingly therapeutic. Make sure it’s challenging and requires focus.

2. Plan double time. We so often underestimate how long a task will take. Then we’re frustrated, rushed and behind when it takes longer. If you think something will take an hour, block off two on your calendar. If it only takes an hour and a half, you’ll feel like part of your life was given back to you. Use it freely.

3. Get a shoeshine. I enjoyed my first one of these in years today on Market Street. For 10 minutes there was nowhere I could go. It was awesome. And the conversation is likely to be pure entertainment. Next time you see a man shining shoes on the street, stop…for both your sakes.

4. Watch a sunset. I first fell in love with these when I lived in Sevilla. No matter where you are, there is a sunset. Sit alone or with someone you love and just soak it in. Whether it’s over a building or an ocean makes no difference. One of my rules is to stop and appreciate anytime I come across a sunset. The pictures and beauty you capture will be well worth it.

5. Go on a date. What’s the rush on a hot date? Just be sure it’s with someone you genuinely enjoy and you’ll never be watching the clock.

6. Live in Spain. Or any culture where they work to live as opposed to live to work. Ideally for a year but a month or week will do as a starter. My year and a half in Spain taught me my most valuable lessons about priorities and appreciating the moments and people around me. This is much tougher to learn in fast-paced achievement-driven societies. Spend time in a slow culture and it will change you.

7. Walk. Don’t run. Look around and you’ll see people running to the bus or the train or a plane or even the bathroom. Running when you don’t intend or have to causes stress. It is not worth the saved seconds. Instead, decide to walk mindfully and enjoy the stroll no matter where you’re headed (unless your getting into a good workout of course). As Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia says,

“It’s about how you got there. Not what you’ve accomplished.”

8. Show up 15 minutes early. This makes walking places all the more comfortable. I continue to work on this. If you’re always ahead of schedule then there’s no need to rush. Afraid you’ll have to wait for someone? Then always have a book under your arm.

10. Do one less thing at the end of the day. Instead of cramming one more thing in when you have a spare five minutes, save it for tomorrow. Hurried work is never good work. It will take enjoyment away from what’s ahead. I am notorious for this. Next time you have five spare minutes, use them to take some deep breaths and absorb your surroundings. Maybe even smile at a few people.

11. Get in the longest line. Instead of always going for the shortest line and being frustrated when the one next to you moves faster, decide to seek out the longest one. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? There will be no false expectations and you can save the short line for someone who really needs it. It’s empowering to know you chose to wait.

12. Take the slower bus. I used to rush to catch the express bus near my house only to save 11 minutes. Now I’ve switched to taking the bus that stops at every stop. I have no expectations of getting to the office quickly and I get 22 more precious minutes of reading time each day, which I love.

And as a bonus, leave your watch at home. There are plenty of other ways to tell time without it being glued to your wrist. You’ll end up looking at it way too often anyway. I did away with watches years ago. It was liberating to say the least.

I’ve picked these up over the years and made them into simple rituals to slow my stride. They are a breeze to implement and I encourage you to create some of your own as well. I don’t remember to do them all the time but when I do, the calm of knowing I’m putting an end to the rush is something I hope we can all experience.

Remember there is no real hurry. There’s only the one we create for ourselves through poor and unrealistic planning. Just because society is always on the go, does not mean you have to be. If we’re not careful we’ll miss half the fun of getting there.

Life is not a race. Do take it slower.

Hear the music. Before the song is over.

-David L. Weatherford

Take a moment to enjoy the slow dance of life today.

What are your methods for slowing your pace and enjoying the ride? Share them with us in the comments below.

If you liked this article, please Tweet about it or tell your friends on Facebook using the links below. I’d appreciate it.

Books and Resources You Might Enjoy:

The Power or Now: Experience the Present and Live with Freedom

Learn to Meditate: Successful Techniques and How to Choose

The Art of Time

Slow Dance

Pictures from my Mt. Shasta Adventure

Photo courtesy of Matheus Sanchez



Leave a Reply

30 Responses to “The Art of Slowing Down: 12 Simple Ways”

  1. Ian says:

    Hi Scott. Some good advice here although I’m a way off achieving a fair bit of it. I tend not to rush and haven’t worn a watch for years but I’ve never thought about getting in the longest queue ! It’s so against my normal thinking it’s worth giving it a go to see how it feels. I am English so queuing comes naturally anyway!

  2. Wow, what a great article, Scott. I am the kind of person that hates to hurry. In fact, rushing brings a lot of stress to my life. I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient so I don’t have to rush. This article is full of great ideas that I’m sure I’ll have to remind myself of over and over. This was exactly what I needed to read today. Thanks!

    • Joel Gagnon says:

      Great articles Scott. I hurry everywhere I go despite the fact that it brings stress to me and the people around me. I am happy to say though that I left my car in the garage and took BART and the bus to work today for the first time. It took an extra 20 minutes or so and felt great. Thank you for the wise words.

  3. Hi Scott, This is a terrific post. As you say, there are several very good reasons to slow down, namely to avoid stress, to savor the experience, and to be safe. (The 3 S’s)

    I get stressed by people driving too fast and too close in
    southern Maryland where I moved 5 months ago. And for what, to get down to the next red-light faster than somebody else?

    Walking is is one of my favorite ways to slow down. Lately my BF and I have been talking a short walk after dinner to Chesapeake Bay to walk along the beach. I bring my binoculars, and we check on 4 osprey nests, one being at the top of an enormous construction crane. Bird watching adds so much to a simple walk.

  4. Scott says:

    @Ian: Getting in the longest queue is a pretty funny idea. But think of how impossible it is to lose when you set yourself up like that. A very good friend taught me this one (the same one who got me to do a way with my watch in fact). The small things…

    Thanks for the comment.

    Scott

  5. Scott says:

    @ Brenda: Thanks so much for the comment. I am glad all this hurrying resonated with you. I too try all I can to get as efficient and productive as possible but I have found one issue with this. No matter how productive you are, if you keep filling all your minutes then you’ll still always feel on the go. The key is to get productive and then use the time saved for something totally different, calming and enjoyable.

    -Scott

  6. Scott says:

    @ Joel: I have a feeling you don’t hurry quite as much as you think you do. At least I can never tell. You know, you are my teacher on a lot of these topics so let’s continue to keep each other sharp! Glad you enjoyed the slow ride to work. Hope you had a nice book for the trip.

    I really appreciate the comment,
    Scott

  7. Scott says:

    @ Madeleine: The 3 S’s. I love it! I might have to borrow that one ;). I’ve felt the same way about traffic or people who lay on the horn when things are not going quite like they want. Is it really going to do any good and what’s a few extra minutes anyway? If you left 15 minutes early in the first place then there shouldn’t be any problem.

    Your walk sounds perfect. I could see how bird watching could really slow things down. Maybe I’ll give it a try while I’m in the mountains this weekend.

    Thanks for the thoughts,
    Scott

  8. Lovely good ideas. I just lead a weekend retreat at Kripalu and got so slowed down – and enjoyed seeing the women in the retreat slow down – now I’m finding myself completely unwilling to rush. It’s a good feeling!

  9. Scott says:

    @ Jennifer: That is awesome that you are leading retreats. I just checked the Kripalu website and your blog and they both look amazing. I wouldn’t mind joining you on one of those. Must feel awesome to be nice and slowed down even once you are back to reality. I just got back from a 3 day retreat of my own in Lake Tahoe (self administered). It was perfect.

    Thanks for visiting!

    Scott

  10. Roberta says:

    Much enjoyed the article and ideas. As of a year ago, I stopped speeding when I drove. I drive the speed limit, have no worries about breaking the law and being pulled over, enjoy what I see out of the window and get places about the same time as I would have otherwise. Much less stress and use less gas.

  11. Scott says:

    @ Roberta: Sounds like a great decision to me. It’s funny how speeding will hardly save any time at the end of the day anyway. Maybe 15 minutes in a 4 hour trip but in day to day driving what is the big deal? Glad you don’t seem to mind.

    Thanks for stopping in,

    Scott

  12. Astreil says:

    Great list. Sometimes I want to slow down, but don’t know just how. I like quantification!

    • Scott says:

      Many thanks Astreil. Any one of these should get you off to a solid start. They key is making it a part of your routine!

      Happy New Year!
      Scott

  13. Jess says:

    Good post. Especially in today’s world of ever increasing responsibility and pressure, we need all the reminders we can get to just slow down and stop stressing out!
    A combo of 7/12 that I use and love, for those of us that are stuck driving to work: park at the end of the parking lot farthest from where you’re going, regardless of when you arrive or what spaces are open. This gives you a few minutes of walking to get to the building, leaving you some time to relax and think, stretch your legs, and start your work day having made a conscious choice to slow it down, so you’re in the right mindset from the beginning!

  14. Jonathan says:

    I have enjoyed a few reads and decided to drop a reply on this one. When we learn to slow down, I think we learn what’s important in all aspects of life.

    I personally unplugged from the matrix this year with all of my savings in a very high stress environment. I decided to live my dream of art & design.

    One thing i’ve noticed and i’d HIGHLY recommend to anyone an additional exercise in learning to slow down, is take a figure drawing class (or any fundamental art class) in which you actually learn to break down the highly complex “busy” human form into manageable basic geometric forms that make sense. The metaphor for life becomes freakishly surreal.

    Hiking mountains really spoke to me in this piece because I spent the last 10 years in Colorado hiking as many 14ers as possible. You are SOOO right when you get to the top.

    Slowing down is an art and the feeling that comes with it is unbelievable!

    thank you for your post!

  15. brand says:

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  16. Gopinadha Reddy Y says:

    Awesome…Scott!! You reminded me of my resolve once again. I feel that this “Slowdown” resolve requires reminders to keep us on track. “Freedom from the Known” by ‘Jiddu Krishnamurti’. I strongly recommend this book, After reading it, one may change not only one’s activities but also slows down the core ‘Self’, Thinking style, life style, Approach towards life etc.

    Thank you once again… :)

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