One of my intentions for the past 6 months is slowing down and not get so caught up in the ‘hustle’ of go, go, go (which tends to be my default). What has surprised me the most, is the more I practice slowing down throughout the day, the more I accomplish and the better I feel. The other thing that surprises me is how hard it is to break the habit of go, go, go and the to-do list addiction. I took me a very long time to reconcile that accomplishment and drive could take up the same space as slowing down and intentional living. I realized that it took some big time TRUST on my part to actually slow down.
The issue isn’t that we don’t know HOW to slow down. The issue is that we don’t WANT to slow down because we don’t trust that slowing down is a good thing.
You hear slowing down is good for you and you agree wholeheartedly. You want to slow down; you decide to attend a yoga class or do a 5-minute meditation every morning. And (here’s the part few people talk about) at first slowing down is PAINFUL. It causes us to be more aware (uh-oh!), feel more (blech!) and gives space for that nasty voice in our heads to tell us how lazy and slow we are (hello inner critic!). And then after our painful morning experience with slowing down, we meet a friend for lunch who is all about sharing everything she is accomplishing, how early she is getting up and how she is killing it on a daily basis (all hail the to-do list!).
Slowing down is like working out. That first workout after months or years of not working out can cause us to be incredibly sore, so to the act of slowing down. Except society usually supports our idea of working out and society DOES NOT support the idea of slowing down and especially the idea that slowing down can increase productivity (that’s crazy!!)
So yes, slowing down will initially be painful. AND then after a few days, weeks, months it gets less painful. Those thoughts and feelings aren’t so scary, and you realize that being intentional and aware opens up your life in a way your to-do list can’t touch.
So here are my tips for:
A 5-minute meditation is a LONG time to be silent when you haven’t done it before. Some of us are hard-wired to go go go, so slowing down is the LAST thing we want to do. I have added slowing down to my life by practicing mini rituals throughout the day.
Start where you are:
Being in the shower when you are in the shower..notice how hard this is to do.
Take 3 Deep Breathes at the stop light.
Pick a task and hyper focus on it. Go through your senses as you complete the task. e.g. cutting vegetables for dinner, cleaning dishes, writing an email.
Do anything slower. Drive slower, eat slower, walk slower.
Slowing down creates space for our thoughts and feelings to emerge as well as our inner critic. When we visualize each thought and feeling like a package on a conveyor belt, we can choose to pick it up and look at it and then put it back down on the conveyor belt. This visual help us to remember that we don’t have to be consumed by our thoughts, we can take them or leave them. Our thoughts and feelings are separate from us.
Yes, your friend might be accomplishing a ton in her life good for her. But as your Mom told you, YOU are not your friend. You can only take care of you. Don’t worry about how much other people are accomplishing or what they think of you (back to the conveyor belt of thoughts and feelings.) Stay. In. Your. Own Car.
There is No Right Way.
Slowing down is all about building non-judgemental awareness so you can be more engaged in your life. Slowing down by its very nature will make your inner critic more chatty, and he/she will have a lot of tips for how you SHOULD be doing it. Remind yourself repeatedly that there is no right way.
When I first started intentionally slowing down I had to keep bringing myself back over and over and over ( I still haven’t made it through a shower without getting lost in my head, but when I started I couldn’t make it through the shampoo portion of my shower). It doesn’t matter how many times you have to remind yourself to ‘slow down’ just keep practicing.
Slowing down is the simplest most challenging task you will do in the quest to Live Happier. It is also one of the most rewarding.