What would it be like to wake up one morning and decide to cut the pace of your regular life in half? To slow down – way down – and savor life’s simple pleasures? To savor every sip of your morning coffee, while stopping for a moment to enjoy the rays of sun pouring in the window. Today, people often move through life at dizzying speeds, and often pay the consequences. Relationships feel fragmented, children and loved ones may feel starved for attention, stress levels soar, and our health suffers.
Often when a decision is consciously made to slow down and not rush there is a stigma attached. The inner critic revs up and chides, “You’re not doing enough, keep going, doing, producing, don’t be lazy...” And then the guilt settles in. Yet when we slow down and allow life to move at a slower rhythm, the creative thoughts bubble up and flow, and ironically, our levels of productivity often improve.
The focus then centers on quality with a greater attention to detail and not necessarily quantity. As a consequence, we are happier and find more time to enjoy what is right in front of us rather than actively searching for the next best thing. "Slowing down gives you needed perspective during times of transition and stress,” says stress consultant and psychotherapist, Dr. Richard Carlson, author of Slowing Down to the Speed of Life: How to Create a More Peaceful, Simpler Life from the Inside Out.
The capacity to pay attention moment to moment has many names, perhaps most notably, mindfulness. Jon Kabat Zin, a pioneer in the field of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), states, “Mindfulness is a certain way of paying attention that is healing; that is restorative; that is reminding you of who you actually are so that you don’t wind up getting entrained into being a human doing rather than a human being. When we practice mindfulness we are less caught up in and at the mercy of our destructive emotions, and we are then predisposed to greater emotional intelligence and balance, and therefore to greater happiness, because living mindfully gives us more satisfaction in our job, in our family and in our life in general.”
Luckily, on the Guanacaste coast, most residents choose to live at a slower pace – our days are not often a blur of overscheduled hours. However, if you are prone to doing too much, or if you need a reminder for your re-entry into your “other life”, here is a short list of ways to help slow you down.
- Step away for 10 minutes. Take a few minutes each day to step out of conventional clock time – let your mind wander and relax your focus. This is often when we are more open to creative impulses and answers that we're often searching for.
- Prioritize what is most important and learn to say no.
- Make a “do not do” instead of a “to do” list.
- Set aside time for a mindful or slow-paced activity every day. A slow walk or a slow meal, or perhaps partake in something that gives you a lot of pleasure at a slower pace than normal. Notice how your mood shifts.