21 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy Your Life More
Are you swept up in the speediness that characterizes modern life?
I wouldn’t be surprised if a sense of urgency has infiltrated your entire life, prompting you to walk faster, eat faster, talk fast, and drive faster.
Because constant activity can cause an imbalance in your brain’s dopamine levels, a highly addictive brain chemical which brings about momentary feelings of reward and pleasure.
You may unconsciously stay busy to get more dopamine hits. Then you get caught in a vicious cycle the keeps you locked into a busy lifestyle.
Your busy state gets further reinforced by a culture that always wants more. Even if you want to slow down, you probably feel caught in a momentum that seems impossible to break.
Slow Down for More Happiness and Joy
Consider all that can suffer when you constantly go at warp speed, including: the quality of your work, the sweetness of close relationships, a sense of satisfaction with life, and your good health. Is it really worth it?
Conversely, when you consciously choose to slow down, you’ll:
- Reduce stress
- Make room for genuine connection with others
- Increase enjoyment
- Reduce mistakes
- Hear the whispers of your heart
- Tune into the promptings of your body
- Allow space for connecting with the mystery of life
Slowing down requires a conscious choice, one that must be made on a moment-to-moment basis. It won’t necessarily be easy at first because your brain is caught in a go-go-go loop. But with focused attention you can embrace a healthier pace and still get the important things done.
21 Ways to Slow Down and Savor the Moment
Even though I value slow living, I’ve noticed a built-in speediness in the way I do even the simple things in life. I created this list of ways to slow down as a reminder for myself. But, of course, I hope it will help you too.
1. Make Lists
Making a list invites me to pause, prioritize, and plan. Using a list protects me from forgetting. As a result, I don’t waste time backtracking to fix errors or endless trips to the store to pick up that forgotten item.
I make daily, weekly, and monthly to do lists. I also keep a running shopping list, dividing by different types of stores. Instead of looking at my shopping list once, in haste, as I enter a store, I take the time to check off each item as I put it in my cart. Otherwise, a few will immediately vanish from my mind.
Don’t make your to-do lists too long otherwise you’ll feel more pressure and stress. Try to stick to the three top priorities.
2. Establish a Morning Routine
Research shows that an early morning increase in stress can continue all the way into the afternoon. Not good right?
Instead, start with a calming morning routine. Aim for 20-30 minutes. If that seems impossible, start with 10 minutes and slowly expand from there.
Don’t pack your morning time too full of “relaxing” activities. You’ll end up creating more stress.
Keep it simple and high impact. Maybe you just need to sit quietly and sip a cup of tea for a short time to feel centered, at ease, and ready to meet your day. Here’s a glimpse of my morning routine.
3. Wind Down in the Evenings
If you want to reset your nervous system each day, establish a relaxing evening routine.
Set aside at least an hour to wind down before bed. Lower the lights, stop using electronic devices, and turn off the TV. Living in alignment with your circadian rhythms will help you sleep better and will reduce stress too.
You’re evening routine might involve light reading, a warm bath, listening to soothing music, setting out your clothes - whatever makes it easy for you to decelerate. You’ll find more ideas in these articles:
- The Sleep-Stress Connection: How to Get the Rest You Need
- How to Outsmart Morning Stress and Feel At Ease All Day
4. Touch Base with Yourself
If you go non-stop all day long, you probably fall into bed exhausted at night without having tuned into yourself for a single second during the day.
Instead, make it a habit to consciously touch base with yourself several times a day.
Ask yourself: “How do I feel - emotionally and physically? What do I need right now?” Then give yourself what you need. If you check in and find you feel stressed, you might enjoy these 21 Super-Easy Tiny Pleasures Guaranteed to Destroy Stress
5. Speak Slowly
Do you forget to think before you speak because you feel pressed?
Instead, pause before you speak and let your words pass through three gates:
- Is it true?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it kind?
Practice active listening with an intention to understand rather than to shore up your view. Your attentive presence will make a difference in the quality of your communications and the depth of your connections.
Speech uses up a lot of our vital energy. Consider speaking less, listening more, and taking periods of silence to replenish yourself.
If you find communication challenging, read: 9 Quick Communication Tips That Will Improve Your Relationships
6. Walk Mindfully
Walking mindfully is a simple way to inhabit your body instead of rushing head first to get from one place to another.
It’s easy. Slow down your pace slightly and place your inner attention on the heel-to-toe movement as each foot touches the ground. Breathe naturally and allow your eyes to gaze softly in front of you. Take notice when your attention wanders away into thoughts, emotions, and the dramas of the day. Without judging or chastising yourself, gently bring your awareness back to the sensations of walking, back to the present moment.
Practice mindful walking often during the day. You don’t have to go at the speed of molasses, just slow down a bit and feel yourself present in your body.
7. Prepare the Night Before
If you feel rushed in the morning, you’ll begin to accumulate stress before you’ve started the main part of your day. You can avoid this, by preparing the night before.
In the evening, select and set out your clothes for the next day. Anticipate the practical items you’ll need over the coming day. Gather them together and put them in your purse, a tote bag, or briefcase.
Make this preparation a part of your evening ritual. Be sure to go about it in a conscious, relaxed way.
8. Sit Under the Night Sky
When you sit quietly under the stars, you can experience and appreciate, in a wordless way, both the mystery of life and the vastness of all that is.
This can also help you connect with the spacious reservoir of wisdom that lies within, when it's not obscured by constant thinking, relentless busyness, or continual engagement.
9. Create Your Own Tea Ceremony
The traditional tea ceremony is a form of mediation. It’s also an opportunity to slow down and savor the moment. Create your own tea ritual, however you like, just be sure that mindfulness is part of the mix.
Set aside time each afternoon. Heat up a kettle of water. Release a tea bag from its packet and place it in a special cup or place tea leaves in a tea pot. Pay attention to each movement you make.
As you begin to sip your tea, notice the flavors, aromas and taste. Feel gratitude for all the people it took to bring this tea to you, from the growers to the pickers to the packers and drivers.
Teatime can become a reminder to slow down. It can serve as a bridge between the activity of the day and the down tempo of the evening.
10. Say “No, Thank You”
It’s difficult to slow down and enjoy life if you have too many commitments.
Instead of being run by shoulds, must-dos, or have-to’s, let your heart be the guide when it comes to saying “yes” or “no” to invitations or new commitments.
You usually know what you really want to say when you receive an invitation, but do you listen to yourself? Do you feel an automatic “yes?” Or is there a heavy feeling around your heart?
Pay attention and have the courage to honor your heart.
Read more about how to let go of shoulds: Overcome by Shoulds? Take Back Your Life
No one knows the full dangers of constant digital engagement. But we do know it can be addictive, change your brain, and alter the quality of your life.
- Fill you with unimportant and useless information
- Diminish your creativity
- Suck up your free time
- Take attention away from your partner, family, or friends
Is that what you want?
Experiment with digital sabbaticals and see if they make a difference for you. Unplug for a day each week or go all out for a weekend, a week, or a month.
12. Savor Your Food
Have you noticed the display of quick fix digestive aids at checkout counters in big drugstores? Rushed meals can cause indigestion, heartburn, constipation, and low energy. You need to chew your food thoroughly - 30 to 40 times - to digest it properly. That means taking your time.
Eating too fast also adds to a frantic feeling in life.
If you want to chill out, avoid eating while driving, at your desk, around the water cooler, or while watching t.v. Use the moment you sit down at the dining room as a reminder to reduce the pace, pay attention to your food, and enjoy your meal. Smell the aromas, delight in the colors, and savor the flavors.
13. Write or Type at Half Speed
Once adopted, speed begins to infiltrate every aspect of your life. Do you automatically write or type at high speed just because? Try half speed and practice presence as you write or type. See how it feels.
14. Take the Slower Route
Just because everyone else breaks the speed limit in their frenzied race to the next place, doesn’t mean you must too. Choose the slow lane, take the scenic route, or try a less traveled course. It might take 10 minutes more, but won’t it be better to arrive more relaxed?
15. Send Handwritten Notes
The speed of email and texts increase the momentum of our lives.
Once a week or so turn down the pace. Linger awhile with pen and paper as you prepare a thoughtful handwritten note instead.
16. Create or Color
Paint, draw, mold clay, or color for no particular reason at all.
Although coloring may not be creative in the usual sense, consider its benefits.
In one groundbreaking study, anxiety levels dropped when subjects colored mandalas, round images with geometrically balanced patterns inside. The famous psychotherapist Carl Jung recommended coloring mandalas to his patients decades ago. He saw a link between the mandalas and an individual’s move toward wholeness.
Coloring also has the potential to ease stress, improve mindfulness, and enhance focus. It helps because it requires you to slow down.
17. Take a Day Off Each Week
We all need time for rest and renewal, but I bet you sometimes fill your weekends with chores, obligations, or unfinished work.
Instead, set aside a day each week for “dolce far niente” - that means “the sweetness of doing nothing.” Sleep late, enjoy your family, commune with nature, go for a picnic, take a nap, watch the sunset - do whatever delights your heart.
18. Do One Thing At a Time
Multi-tasking increases the production of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. It also creates a dopamine addiction feedback loop, rewarding the brain when it gets distracted and searches for external stimulation. That means the more you multi-task, the more you’re inclined to distraction.
Break the loop. Choose to focus on one thing at a time and give it your full attention.
19. Give Yourself More Time
We tend to underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete any given task. That leads to frustration, pressure, and stress.
Double the amount of time for every single task on your list. If you finish a task early, use the time to relax or enjoy a tiny pleasure.
20. Try Slower Paced Exercise
To calm and reset your entire body, try gentle exercises like Tai Chi, Restorative Yoga, Pilates, stretching, walking, or swimming without the cranked up music. Exercises like Tai Chi and Yoga calm and heal the nervous system.
21. Schedule Unplanned Time
Schedule 30 minutes of unplanned time each day. If you don’t schedule it in your planner, it probably won’t happen.
During your unplanned time, allow yourself to daydream, sit quietly and gaze out a window, ask a question and listen to the whispers of your heart, take a bath, swing in a hammock, take a nap, or lie on a blanket in the sun. Make your own favorites do nothing list so you won’t get trapped when you mind pulls you toward busyness.
One of the best times I’ve had in the last month was sitting aimlessly in the sun watching tall trees gently sway. I felt so nourished and connected on a more profound level. I wish that for you too. All it takes is a commitment to consciously slow down.
How do you slow down? What are your favorites from this list? I would love to hear in the comments.
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for Wild Arisings, my twice monthly letters from the heart filled with insights, inspiration, and ideas to help you connect with and live from your truest self. And if you would like to support Always Well Within, buy my Living with Ease course or visit my Self-Care Shop. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra