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Life is busy. Society is constantly tugging at you, urging you to move faster, do more, reach for greater heights.
It’s an eternal treadmill of go-go-go that some people just run themselves ragged on.
And for what? High blood pressure? More stress in their everyday life? To buy more stuff? Because they just can’t imagine sitting still for a little while?
The world’s not going to stop turning if we aren’t being productive every waking minute of every day.
It’s okay to slow down, do less, and enjoy life more.
Don’t know how to do that? We got you covered.
1. Turn off your devices.
Cell phones, computers, tablets, televisions… all of them are time-wasters in their own way. It’s time to turn off those devices and have a technology detox.
Cell phones, in particular, have programmed us to be ultra-responsive in a way that has never been seen before. Before cell phones, email, and instant messengers, people had to actually wait patiently for responses! If you called someone and they weren’t home, then they just weren’t home, and you had to try again later – no texts, no instant messages, nothing more than a voicemail.
Technology is amazing, but it has created some unintended side effects. There’s no reason that you need to be tethered to your technology 24/7 to be reachable. It creates a false sense of immediacy and urgency that is only bad for your mental health.
2. Spend more time in nature.
Set your devices down, get out of the house and into nature. Nature tends to move at its own casual pace for the most part, and being amongst it will encourage you to slow down too.
You can spend some quality time with outdoor activities, reading a book in the sunshine, or enjoying a park.
No phone calls, no meetings, nothing other than you and that slice of nature where you can unwind and take in the scenery.
People are not meant to be confined to cubicles and boxes. We all need the freedom to spread our wings once in a while.
3. Say no more often.
The power of the word “no” cannot be overstated.
Many of us are too busy because other people rarely have a problem with overburdening us with things to do. It might be a coworker looking to offload some responsibility, a friend who knows you always say yes, or a boss who calls you on your day off.
You must get comfortable with saying no to things that you don’t want to do as much as you can. We understand that’s not always possible. But the more you can do it, the less your schedule will be burdened with other peoples’ responsibilities that they should be handling.
4. Try meditation.
Meditation is a powerful tool for calming the mind and slowing things down. There are many different ways to go about meditating, from simple breathing exercises to guided visualizations.
A simple method of meditation is called “Box Breathing.” All you do is sit down in a comfortable position, inhale for four seconds, hold it for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold it for four seconds, and repeat.
Focus your thoughts on your breathing and methodically counting off the seconds. Your mind will focus on your breathing, maintaining the repetition, and hopefully, let some calm in after a few minutes of focus.
Even a five minute Box Breathing meditation can help clear your thoughts and slow down.
5. Audit your social circles.
The people we surround ourselves with have a massive impact on the way we conduct our lives. If the people you surround yourself with are constantly negative and stressed out, that’s what you can look forward to
Very rarely can positive people influence negative people out of their negativity, but it is easy for a negative person to drag a happy person down.
There’s always a problem, always a reason things aren’t going to work, always something to do or something to stress out over.
It’s even worse if your circles are all competitive. Why aren’t you buying the latest, greatest thing to gloat over your friends? Why aren’t you taking vacations? Buying a big house? Having kids? What’s so wrong with you that you aren’t competing?
Take an inventory of who you spend your time with. Limit time with people that sap your energy and happiness.
6. Leave your work at work.
There are some employers that just don’t know how to respect boundaries. Rather, they do know, but they push and push and push until they overrun yours.
Don’t take your work home with you. Don’t pick up the phone every time your employer calls (unless you’re being well-compensated for that on-call privilege.) Never work off the clock.
Try to keep work from bleeding over into your non-work life as much as you can. Protect your personal time so that you have more of that time to dedicate to rest and relaxation. You’ll feel yourself and your life slowing down immeasurably.
7. Try new things regularly.
The novelty of a new experience can be a source of happiness for some. It’s exciting to experience a new thing. That might be trying out a new restaurant, learning a new recipe, picking up a new hobby, reading a book outside of your usual genre, or listening to some different music.
Create time in your life to try new things, even if they are small things. Contrary to what you may believe, delving into something new and novel every so often can actually help you lead a slower pace of life.
You experience new things differently to things you have done a million times. You are more aware of your senses and the things going on around you. It really helps ground you in the present moment, which is precisely what our next point is about…
8. Focus on being present.
A busy life often comes with many worries and responsibilities. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in all of the things you need to get done later. That kind of thinking just piles on anxiety and prevents you from enjoying the present moment that you’re in.
Try to avoid worrying about things outside of your control or that you need to do later. Focus on the task at hand, whatever that task might be. It could be work or leisurely activity. Bring your mind back to what you’re doing when you feel it drifting off to somewhere else.
9. Try a low-stress hobby.
A low-stress hobby can help balance out a chaotic or stressful life. A hobby like gardening can provide much needed time to focus on the plants’ care while enjoying being outside in nature. It’s a much different feeling to have your hands in the dirt and watch plants that you nurtured grow up into something beautiful.
If you don’t have land to grow anything on, you might try box gardening. A window box or a box on your porch can be used to grow small things, like herbs or small flowers. Succulents are also a popular choice for would-be gardeners who don’t necessarily have room for a garden. They can be small and reasonably easy to manage.
The point is, time spent doing something that is low-stress is time spent free from the urgency that plagues so many of us in this modern world. It provides the slower pace you are looking for.
Strive to eliminate junk from your life. That junk could be social activities you don’t really want to do, garbage food, bad social connections, or really anything that doesn’t serve the kind of life that you want to build for yourself.
If you’re going to say yes to things, you want those things to be worth the time and energy you’re investing in them.
That doesn’t mean that everything needs to be done for selfish reasons. Acts of charity and selflessness are often a good choice for quality. Maybe you don’t really want to go to that gathering, but you want to support a dear friend who is always supportive of you. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
Just don’t fill the hours of your day with pointless activities for the sake of being busy.
11. Do things that are unproductive.
Waste some time! That’s right. Take some time and waste it. Take a nap. Casually read a book. Sit on the porch and watch a sunset. Partake in a hobby that’s not meant to make money or for the sake of turning into a “hustle” or “side-gig.”
Society is obsessed with productivity. And really, a lot of that productivity is just pointless busywork. Make it a habit to do things just because they interest you or because you want to do them, not because they will have some financial or work-related payoff later.
And, perversely, you’ll find that once you learn how to slow down, you’ll be more productive during those times you really need to be.
12. Do more things that make you happy.
The more things you can fit into your life that make you happy, the better you’re going to feel. It really doesn’t get much more complicated than that.
We’re not saying that you need to fill your days with activities by any means, because even if you enjoy each of those things by themselves, you may find that too many such things still leaves you feeling exhausted.
What we’re suggesting is finding a better balance between the things you really enjoy, the responsibilities that you cannot avoid, and time spent just relaxing.
If you live a busy life of stress and work, you’ll need to find ways to cut back on some of that work so you can devote more time to the things that bring you happiness and joy.
That can be so hard to do when you have work, the family, kids, and your own self-improvement to take care of. But it is essential to prevent burnout and increase your enjoyment of life.