Five (easy-to-achieve) slow-down tips for busy people
Forever on the go and asking yourself, 'But HOW can I possibly slow down?!' Try my favourite tips...
As a single mum, I am forever on the go. I often feel as if I'm in a relay race where I pass the baton from myself to myself, ready to run the next leg, whether I want to or not. I'm so busy going in and out of my house to fetch, carry, collect and sort that I've considered putting a revolving door in and be done with it.
Whether it's because you're a mum, carer or someone whose work life leaves them feeling like they're on that crazy conveyor belt, you may well be wondering, 'How can I slow things down?!'
Here are five 'do-able' slow-down tips that have worked for me:
1. Leave your mobile somewhere else
I confess - I'm a devil for checking my smart phone. Author Nicholas Carr, who wrote The Shallows (a book about how the internet is changing us) told me it's not unusual for office workers to check their email inbox 30-40 times per hour. Guilty as charged. I'm now convinced that that constant checking is increasing the pace of my life by stealing precious time that could be used for more fulfilling tasks.
Slow down tip: I force myself to be parted from my mobile for at least 10 minutes per hour. Or if that's not possible, I try for at least half an hour in any given day. I do this by physically separating myself from it - putting it downstairs if I'm upstairs, or in another room, and I leave it on silent so I don't hear the 'baby's cry' of my bleeping mobile calling me...Also, I'm just about to buy a good old-fashioned alarm clock to wake me each morning rather than having my mobile at my side. Will keep you posted on my progress...watch this space.
2. Eat more consciously
The way we eat (or don't eat) is often symptomatic of our crazily busy lives. Research reveals that around 65 per cent of workers either eat at their desks or don't eat at all. And failing to take a proper break can adversely affect your mood, memory and memory, according to researchers at Humboldt University in Berlin. When you do eat, is it on the hoof and wolfed down so quickly it barely touches the sides? You'll be doing your mind and digestive system a favour if you can eat in a slower, more considered way.
Slow-down tip: Don't get up in the middle of a meal to get something for someone else. This especially happens if you have children, who always seem to decide they want something when you're sat down! The world isn't going to end if they don't have a slice of bread for another five minutes while you finish you meal. Can't get away from your office? Move your chair to a window and look out of that for 5-10 minutes while you eat your sandwich. Be mindful of each bite, savouring the flavour and texture of each mouthful.
3. Slow down your driving
OK, confession time - do you speed when you're driving? Even just a little bit?...Well, in my busy life, I have to confess that I sometimes motor a tad on the fast side. A wise older lady once said to me, 'Better to be five minutes late in this world than five minutes early in the next'. When you're crazily trying to divvy up time between a dozen different chores, it's hard to think that way but she did, of course, have a point.
Slow-down tip: Be selective about what you listen to whilst driving. A 2013 study found that music choices impacted how fast people drove. This is certainly the case for me. I choose classical over, say, dance music because I drive more slowly, but even then I have to choose carefully. For example, if I drive along listening to the third movement of any Mozart concerto, I find I'm inclined to drive faster. Strange but true. Also, imagine you're driving someone else. A 2004 study by Shinar and Compton found that we tend to drive less carefully and more aggressively when we're alone than when we have passengers. I try to imagine I have my son in the back of the car or a friend with a baby when I'm driving fast and inclined to take more risks and I soon find my speed drops considerably.
4. Slow down your mind
Picture this thought process - 'I've got to do this, and then this, but then what happens if it doesn't happen on time? Or I don't finish it at all?! Oh no, and now I've remembered I've got to do that, too!! Aaagghh!' Does it sound familiar? A 2012 survey of more than 3000 women by the US Families and Work Institute (FWI) found that at least 50 per cent of women say they don't have enough free time and more than 60 per cent feel guilty spending what little time they have on themselves.
Slow-down tip: A therapist taught me this 'And now' technique - a mindfulness exercise. She told me to use it when my mind is racing and inclined to be heading in an upward 'heading towards panic' trajectory. I start every sentence with the words, 'Now I'm...' For example, 'Now I'm drinking some water and feeling how cold it is on my lips. Now I'm looking at the clouds and noticing how white they are. Now I'm noticing how beautiful and blue my son's eyes are.' It's OK, you don't have to say it out loud but even said internally it can help to slow down your mind. I find it incredibly useful.
5. Read a 'nugget' of wisdom each day
Virtually every day I say to myself, 'I must read that 'slow-down self-help book that my friend recommended.' And virtually every day I seem to fail at it. Why? I don't have time, of course - I'm too busy managing my crazily fast life. But I've now realised that a daily nugget of wisdom can be sufficiently potent to nourish me as much as if I'd had an hour to read some weightier tome. I've realised that bite-sized can be powerful, too. Today I read that Mahatma Gandhi once said, 'There is more to life than increasing its speed.' Hearing it from someone so influential somehow seems to amplify its meaning. So ditch that 'I don't have time to read a meaningful book' guilt and think smaller.
Slow-down tip: Follow the Dalai Lama on Twitter. Yes, the Office of His Holiness of the 14th Dalai Lama posts regular updates encouraging you to reflect and to remind you that life isn't all rush, rush, rush. Check it out at @DalaiLama.
Do you have your own slow-down Twitter feed that you'd like to share with other Psychologies readers? Or any other slow-down tips that have really helped you? I'd love to know.