Ever feel like your life is spinning out of control and you just can’t keep up? You know that panicky feeling when the tasks just keep building up and there are no ways to slow down?
Yeah. Me too.
I haven’t always felt like this, though. When I was a little girl I used to spend lazy afternoons climbing trees, talking to the flowers (yes, I was weird) and making up stories about utopian universes. I didn’t ever feel guilty for not spending that time being more ‘productive.’ I didn’t feel the impulse to check the clock constantly (although to be fair, I probably didn’t know how to read it yet either).
The stress of living in a fast-paced world is especially burdensome for millennials, who face a precarious economic future. Many of us feel we must say yes to every opportunity that comes our way to remain competitive in a brutal job market. I feel like I will never reach my goals if I don’t work harder than everyone else. I’m so scared of falling behind, but trying to keep up is coming at a high cost with burnout, depression and anxiety are hitting us harder than ever.
So let’s make 2017 a year of slow(er) living. Here’s how.
1. Start saying no
We’re often encouraged to be a ‘yes person.’ We’re meant to embrace every opportunity that comes our way, and we’re missing out on life if we’re not. I’m an advocate of the opposite approach. Be a ‘no person.’
Be ruthless with your time commitments. Is there anything you’re doing because you feel obligated to, rather than because you want to? Q.U.I.T.
When deciding whether or not to do something, think about Derek Siver’s ‘Hell Yeah Rule.’ If an opportunity presents itself and you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ — then say ‘no.’ This will leave you with enough spare time to delve deep into the ‘hell yeah’ things – the stuff that sets your soul on fire.
2. Wherever you are, be there
Mindfulness is the art of presence, even in the mundane moments of everyday life. Get out of that pretty little head of yours and focus on the here and now. Take the time to really taste every bite of your food. Really appreciate the way the morning sun feels on your skin. Give yourself a break your mind’s non-stop monologue.
I have to confess that I have 13 tabs open as I write this. I’m gonna close them right now.
Do one thing at a time and give it your full attention. The benefits are huge. You will do a better job, you’ll do it more efficiently, your concentration skills will grow and your mental health will improve.
4. Find a slow hobby
Rebel against the cult of constant productivity and find something to do that is purposefully unproductive. Maybe knitting, watercolour painting, baking or gardening. As birdwatcher Alex Preston writes:
‘Our hobbies should be a form of dissent, a radical expression of our individuality, a celebration of doing things that we’re not obliged to do.’
5. Step away from your phone
You have access to more information and entertainment content than you could ever possibly consume at your fingertips. We are the generation addicted to social media’s hits of dopamine, and it’s just as pervasive as cigarettes and gambling. Phones keep us stressed, rushed and sleep deprived. Try turning it off occasionally.
6. Cultivate conversation
As you get older, it takes more effort to maintain friendships. When life gets hectic, catch-ups with friends is one of the first things we cull from our schedules. However, when life gets hard, they’re the ones we rely on the most.
As a somewhat awkward and shy person, the art of good conversation isn’t something that comes naturally to me. Slowing down and giving the other person my full attention helps me to navigate social situations with less embarrassment and anxiety. You can’t really listen and engage with another person if your mind is somewhere else. Meaningful relationships with other humans is basically the meaning of life (in my opinion). Don’t miss the opportunity to connect.
7. Stop comparing
Have you ever found yourself in an absolute panic about life because you feel like your achievements are falling behind everyone else’s? Pretty sure I have weekly existential crises based on this.
I know it’s a cliche, but your journey really is your own, and your time will come. Give yourself permission awesome self, and let other people be their awesome selves. The only benchmark for success that you should care about is becoming a better version of yourself than you were yesterday.
8. Focus on short term goals
Long term goals (sometimes called ‘dreams’) can make us feel trapped in the fast lane as we try to outcompete everyone with the same dream. They can also make is feel stressed and guilty if we don’t give these dreams our all. I prefer to focus on simple short-term goals, for example: ‘finish this blog post before 8pm’ rather than ‘be the best blogger in the world.’
9. Treat your leisure time as non-negotiable
Some things in life require your attendance, no questions asked. You wouldn’t just skip that important presentation, that international flight or your best friend’s 21st birthday party. They’re non negotiables.
Adopt that same kind of strictness towards your leisure time. Squeezing in a few hours of ‘me time’ every week is essential for your mental health and it’s not something you should compromise on. Schedule a strict Friday night date with yourself, a cup of tea and a good book.
10. Have longer lasting sex
(No, this is not a cheeky advertisement for viagra.)
The world has become so fast-paced that we now have a social movement imploring us to spend more time having sex. Now that is a social movement I can get behind 😉
Our culture’s commitment to efficiency has infiltrated our bedrooms. Thanks to Tinder, finding someone to have sex with is as easy as ordering a pizza. But if that requires too much of your time commitment, there’s an abundance of porn and technology that you can enjoy all on your own.
The benefits of slow sex are very appealing. It can give you a deeper connection with your partner and better orgasms. And as we girls know, a little extra time spent to warming up is never wasted time.
How will you slow down in 2017?