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10 Ways to Slow Down in a Fast-Paced World
Do you want to be happy, relaxed, and healthy? Of course! But maybe you don’t have time to go to a yoga studio or learn breathing exercises or meditation. Here are some simple ways you can add more peace and mindfulness to your regular, busy day.
Be present during chores
You’ve gotta do them anyway. Why not find a way to enjoy them? Take a moment to be present while handwashing those dishes that aren’t dishwasher-friendly. Feel the hot water on your hands, enjoy the soap bubbles, hear the clink of the cups. While you’re vacuuming, pay attention to each stroke, hear the dust and dirt getting sucked into the vacuum, enjoy the change from dirty carpet to clean! And while you’re de-cluttering, notice each object that you are picking up. Know that as you are clearing your space you are also clearing your mind.
Turn off the car radio. Pull out the ear buds.
No need to completely block out your favorite tunes or radio programming, but give yourself an occasional break. Don’t be proud of not remembering how you got to work – that’s the sign of an over-busy mind! Focus on the scenery and the sounds of life moving by you. You might be surprised by landmarks you’ve never noticed before! And if you’re an exercise enthusiast, see if you can take your workout outdoors. Pull out those ear buds and give yourself a break from the talk and the music. Focus on what’s happening around you. Take in the air and the life around you. Notice the sound of your feet hitting the pavement, the feel of your legs pumping. Wave and smile at passerby. If you can coordinate, grab a friend or coworker to go with you. Having someone to talk to will get you out of your head and “to do” list and into the present.
Sometimes I walk into a house and the TV is already on. It has become background noise, part of the family environment. It can also be quite a distraction. I used to have the TV on while working, as motivating background noise. I discovered I was about 30 percent efficient when doing this. Enjoy the natural sounds of your home; be present for your family. Choose the specific shows you want to watch, and otherwise keep the TV off.
Cut back on the e-mail checking.
E-mail is one of my big “go-to”s when I want to quick break from something I’m working on. And later I regret it. Decide ahead of time when you will be checking your e-mail. Even if you have to check it multiple times during the day, schedule those in. It is a huge distraction that pulls you right out of the present moment – you’re either reminded about something you haven’t accomplished or worrying about something coming up in the future. Stick to the task that you’re accomplishing right now. Later you can mentally prepare yourself for organizing the onslaught of people and messages vying for your attention.
Be goal-oriented with social media.
Just like going into a store with a shopping list, make a list of what you plan to accomplish on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. If you want to check in with some friends, go directly to their page or feed. Are you looking for some recipe ideas? Do a search. If you stick to the list, you’ll save a lot of time and keep your mind from getting scattered.
Eat at the table.
Make dinner about the food (and company!) Keep the table clear of everything but food during dinner – no TV, no books, no phone, no paperwork or mail, no nothing! Then, focus on the food. Don’t just eat to eat. Make eating a meditative experience. Take in the smells, the appearance, every taste. Savor each bite as it enters your mouth and reaches your taste buds. Focusing on your senses brings you back to the present moment, with the added benefit of better digestion.
Count your steps.
Here’s an easy one! Count your steps, and stay in the present moment. No need to go crazy with the counting. Just keep counting up to 10 or 20. Count your steps down the stairs, to the kitchen, to your car, in to work, to the store – anywhere! Notice your pace. Are you rushed? Slow down your steps, relax your body, and take it all in.
Take advantage of lines.
Not a fan of lines? Me neither! But what a perfect opportunity to slow down and relax. Take some deep breaths. Take in your surroundings. If you’re outdoors, soak up the rays. Maybe chat up the people around you – or people-watch! While waiting in line for a chance to be a movie extra, I struck up a conversation with an actress that inspired me to immediately sign up for an improv class — an eye-opening, fantastic experience!
Mini-meditate during traffic stops and starts.
If there’s anything more frustrating than waiting in line, it is waiting in traffic or waiting for a train. Again, take advantage of this time! Concentrate on your breaths with each breath in and out. Count the vehicles or train compartments that pass. Sometimes I’ll look to see who’s driving the vehicles that pass by or even pick a color or vehicle make to watch for. Enjoy this quick opportunity to slow down.
Take the scenic route.
Do you have an alternate route to work in case of bad traffic? Why not take it on a good traffic day? Or even just a slight detour down a parallel road? When we have a habitual way of doing things, our brains tend to go on auto-pilot and our concentration goes on vacation. Instead of giving your head an excuse to start worrying about work or those items on your “to do” list, take a route that forces you to pay attention. This can also apply to your walking routes. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park in a different parking spot. Sit in a different chair at the meeting. Pick a different spot in the living room.
And as far as that looming “to do” list, get it out of your head and onto paper as quickly as possible. Give it your undivided attention when you are ready for it. Keep your full attention in the present moment in everything you do, and you’re on your way to that happier, more peaceful you!
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