In the fast lane
From the moment your alarm goes off in the morning to the time you finally get to bed at night, chances are you live your day by the clock, rushing from one activity to the next, always thinking ahead. You eat in a rush (usually while doing some other activity at the same time), drive as if willing the car in front of you to go faster, work on several projects all at once, and throughout all of it are constantly thumbing, texting, emailing and phoning. You may even rush to bed at night, already counting the number of hours you have left to sleep until you must get up to do it all over again. Then you lie there, running lists through your head instead of sleeping. Sound familiar?
The speed of modern living is really, in my humble opinion, quite out of control. Progress and improvement are nearly always equated with “faster” and “more efficient.” We have fast food, microwave ovens, cell phone apps, and even speed dating! While you would think that speed and efficiency would make our lives easier, it’s pretty clear that it’s simply made us busier and even more frantic.
Fast is fatal
What does this all have to do with wellness, you ask? A lot when you consider the fact that stress is both the number one cause and the core basis of all disease. It’s at the root of degeneration and death. But wellness is not the opposite of illness, just as being alive is not the opposite of being dead. Wellness is an approach to life where one is truly thriving, not just surviving. Being alive is about experiencing and appreciating each moment to the fullest degree possible, not just being physically functional.
In this sense, rushing through life at breakneck speed and living in a constant state of over-stimulation and stress is fatal not only to your physical health, but to your emotional and spiritual wellbeing. The modern mantra of “faster and more efficient” actually robs you of your experience of life itself.
By slowing down, you actually gain more energy to do all the things that you need to do; but, much more importantly, you get to move through each moment in a calm, aware, fully present state. It is only from this state that you can truly connect to life and truly appreciate it.
I get it. You are busy. You have obligations. You can’t just strike things from your to-do list (or can you?) in order to make more time in the day so that you can move at a slower pace. Slowing down is not so much about doing less as it is about doing what needs to be done with peacefulness. It’s more about a mental attitude and emotional approach than it is about rearranging your schedule (although I encourage you to look at ways to simplify your life too, so that wellness takes a higher priority.) How do you cultivate this calm state without radically altering your life? Let me give you some simple ways to get started.
15 ways to slow down and reduce stress
The # 1 way to slow down is through breath. Take a deep breath in while counting to 5. Exhale slowly while counting to 5 again. Try it. Feel calmer already? How many seconds of your precious time did that take? Try repeating this breath-in, breath-out exercise just 3 – 5 times. If you only did this several times a day, during transition times from one activity to the next (like doing so before a task, a meal, getting in the car, or getting in a conversation), you would see a marked improvement in your overall wellness.
Here are 14 other ideas for how you can begin to incorporate slowing down into your rushed day:
- When you first get out of bed, go stand outside for 1 minute to breathe in the morning air
- Take the bus (if possible) to work 1-2 days/week, using the commute time to meditate
- Once every hour, take 5 minutes to stretch your entire body
- Replace your office overhead light with an ambient desk lamp
- Replace watching TV as your mode of relaxation with listening to soft music or reading
- Take a bath instead of your usual shower
- Instead of rushing to the coffee cart or vending machine at break, walk around the block
- Pick one day a week to escape to a park, hiking trail or body of water
- Promise yourself to only eat when you are sitting down
- Chew each bite at least 20 times
- When eating, do not work on other tasks at the same time
- Close your eyes for a few minutes in the middle of the day
- Light a candle in the bathroom when brushing your teeth and washing your face at night
- Before retiring to bed, take 1 minute to stand outside and look at the night sky
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