How Slowing Down is Improving Life

20170910 - How Slowing Down is Improving Life

One thing my dad always jokingly reminded me about with my “athletic skill” (or lack thereof) was how slow I am. It wasn’t mean, only a reminder of the facts and that I needed to work harder than the competition to be able to play. I’m just not built for speed, no matter how hard I worked at it.  My all time best mile time is 7 minutes, flat. I don’t ever recall timing a 100 yard dash, or I’ve forgotten the times and buried them deep in a place where I don’t want to be reminded. In sports and in business it is all about speed. But earlier this month I finished Carl Honore’s book about embracing a different pace of life, In Praise of Slowness. This book was captivating from the start, and the author enhanced the academic and medical arguments for slowing down with his own experiences and the anecdotes of those he meets on his journey to study the slow movement.

The book takes compartmentalized adventures through different areas of our lives and environment, but ultimately all connect back to why slowing down creates benefits for each and for all who embrace the concept. While I won’t be starting campaigns to turn my city into a “Slow City”, there were a number of practices to take away and try in my life. At the same time I was reading this book, I began exploring meditation. My director at work had recommended an app called HeadSpace, and the recommendation combined with the convincing storytelling by Carl Honore compelled me to try the app also. While I have only used the guided meditation app four times, I’ve realized it is a critical tool not just for stress management, but life and health management.

In addition to the mind/body inclusion of meditation, at least irregularly for now, I began looking differently about how I approach everything. While I was near finishing the book, my husband Tom and I went out for a brunch in Boston. We had no plans for the day and took our time ordering. Either despite or because the restaurant was quiet with Bostonians and weekend brunchers escaping the city for Labor Day weekend, drink and food came quickly. With Massachusetts barring liquor sales on a Sunday before 10am, we did have to wait to order a cocktail.

Now before I continue, I have to point out that Tom is generally and perfectly a relaxed and low-key person – practically my foil to those who have known my intensity. To take in a brunch without being rushed is more in his nature than mine. I kept commenting to Tom how nice it was to relax and enjoy and not feel rushed. His reaction was less in awe than mine, to the effect of, of course, this is brunch, it is supposed to be relaxing!

And what were the results of my slow brunch? I tasted the flavors more intensely than I usually do. I ate less and only what I wanted (you know, the crispiest of the home fries are the only ones worth having!), resulting in a feeling of being satiated but not overfull. There was time for conversation with Tom, to notice the interior architectural details, and to wallow in the smells of coffee and toast. I was more aware of my surroundings and more immersed in the moment and where I was. And this is just brunch! And inspired by a book I wasn’t even done reading yet! The descriptions of the four to five hour dinners in Italy sounded confusing at first, but lounging through a 90 minute brunch when breakfast during the week is scarfing down some eggs and coffee started to change my view. Slowness is not about time, but about experience. Forget time. Being slow allows more ways to enjoy life and those we love and spend time with.

The “slow way” spilled over to work this week. With the approach in mind and meditation on my side from the night before, I focused singularly on tasks, ignored phone calls until I was in a mentally productive place to take them (not interrupting my task, and then wasting time – for both people – orienting to the needs of the caller), and took time out to properly plan the day and days ahead. My to do list was ambitious for the week, but I accomplished or made significant progress on almost everything. I was calm. Relaxed. Cool under pressure, even! Wow – what a change from stressed, harried, exhausted, and ragged. When I took my scheduled vacation day on Friday, there was little to worry about in escaping the office.

A good book, and especially the great ones, can be powerful motivators and influencers. When the topic influences the way you live almost immediately and with what seems to be (or I hope) long lasting behaviors, you know it is a good one. I would highly recommend this book, and even gave it 5 stars on Amazon. I’m usually not a five star person unless I am blown away, and In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore certainly made an impact. Because there is so much good reading to be done, I rarely re-read books, but anticipate referring back to some areas of this book as a reminder to slow down and take in life more fully.

I’m surprised, and shouldn’t be upon reflection, that slowing down is helping me achieve and accomplish more. While I may take breaks from work or side projects, I’m more refreshed and thoughtful during those breaks. Less TV, more walking. Social media is meant to educate and enlighten and share what piques my interest rather than get lost and be envious of others’ lives. I’m more motivated to execute on the workouts I’ve planned for myself, because I’m not worried about other things I could be doing. Instead, I’m focused on how great I feel during and after, filled with maybe an inappropriate amount of pride and accomplishment, but also satisfaction and feelings of better health (or at least on the road to it!).

The slow life must be welcomed rather than forced, but try reading the book In Praise of Slowness and filling your life with routines and actions that make you better personally, with others, and for others. I feel wildly improved over a short period of time and hope the same for you!

What life-altering books have you read lately? Are you living in praise of slowness also? Let me know in the comments!

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