The Art of Slowing Down: 12 Simple Ways
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.
9. Walk half speed. Spend 10-20 minutes walking somewhere at half the speed you’d usually walk. Avoid the natural urge to speed up. Instead, pay attention to all the details you’ll notice while taking so much more time to do something we all almost always take for granted. Smiling while you do it won’t hurt either.
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.
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.
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
Photo courtesy of Matheus Sanchez