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10 Ways to Slow Down
Winter time is the perfect time to lay back, collect our thoughts and enjoy the bounty of the harvest season and the joys of the yuletide season. But, the North American way of life today is not designed for the slow, natural pace of our bodies. Its fast pace with demands at every turn stresses the body and mind which, if uncontrolled, will eventually lead to a feeling of despair and dis-ease. If not alleviated, stress can cause one or more chronic diseases.
To help you slow down during the winter and all other seasons as well, here are ten ways which you can use to achieve a quieter, slower pace to life.
1. Do One Thing At A Time: Perhaps the biggest accelerator to life is trying to do several things at the same time. If you focus on doing only one task at a time, you will begin to slow down. And this means stopping such dual activities as: driving and having phone conversations, eating and reading or watching television, jogging and listening to a walkman, etc.
2. Breathe: Moving your breathing rate to a slower pace will do wonders to slow down your body. Whenever the pace gets out of hand, you can always slow yourself back down by stopping and taking several deep breaths. There are several practices which teach calming breathing techniques as part of their routine, including yoga and the tai chi exercise pattern.
3. Sit Quietly, Do Nothing: This is perhaps the hardest thing on the list given our North American obsession with action. It may take practice. Once you are able to sit quietly and do nothing, practice clearing your mind and listening only to its silence. In effect, this is meditation. The practice is even more calming if you can find a place where noise and sounds are minimal. While you are at it, remember to breathe!
4. Listen To Music: Pick musical pieces that put you at ease. This eliminates most rock, jazz and country music. Classical and instrumental pieces are most likely to help you slow down, but, as musician/psychologist Steven Halpern points out, since music entrains the heart rate to its beat, music is not truly calming unless the beat is 60 or less per minute. At first such slow beats may seem unappealing. But that is just your body/mind in overdrive talking. Stick with it or use other musical pieces to gradually bring you to that pace.
5. Take A Walk: Walking for pleasure and relaxation is one of the best exercises for your body and mind. It helps relieve tensions, stimulate blood flow and develop a slower body rhythm. You may initially find yourself racing to get to where you are going. If so, consciously slow yourself down. And be sure to look at all that is around you, particularly plants and birds and the weather.
6. Take A Bath: Immersing the body in water has many calming qualities. Even if you are a shower person for body-cleansing purposes, the bath can be a cleanser for the mind. Enhance the calming experience with candlelight, some calming fragrances and perhaps some music. This is one of the few times when doing more than one thing at a time is good for you. But turn off the phone and other disturbances before you climb in the tub. If you can get into a tub with swirls and jets, do so. This can relax those tense muscles even more than just bathing.
7. Read: I don't mean here technical reports or the newspaper. Pick a light work of fiction, poetry, nature or spiritual writings, anything that is uplifting and relaxing to you. Loose yourself in the world created by the author.
8. Play Like A Child: Here, I do not mean sports where there is competition. Skating, shooting baskets, hitting golf balls, skiing particularly cross-country are okay if you can eliminate any desire for competition. There are a wide range of other play activities: colouring, dancing slowly and rhythmically to slow music, building with blocks or similar building toys, having a heart-to-heart talk with a doll or teddy bear. When children play they normally focus on the present and their single-minded activity and do so with joy and abandon.
9. Be Creative: Paint, draw, write, play a musical instrument, cook, work with wood, make pottery, sew, the list is endless. Do what you enjoy most, but do it with focus and without judgement of the process or product.
10. Seek Your Spirituality: This can range from attending the religious service of your choice and really becoming engaged in its practice to contemplating your place in the universe. The gods are in no hurry, why should you be?
Bonus: Cuddle: I truly think that this should be one of the prime ways, but the previous ten were directed toward activities that could be done alone. Sometimes slowing down requires alone time. But there is no better way to slow down than physically bonding with a loved one: spouse, partner, parent, child, grandchild, friend. And don't forget our furry friends: cuddling with a loved pet has been shown to significantly reduce heart rates and calm mental activities.
There are likely many more ways by which you can slow your life down. A simple hammock and a warm summer day for a nap, an intimate conversation, telling stories to children, the list can go on and on. The main point is to slow down. The world can function without you for a little while. And no one is truly indispensable. If they were, we wouldn't have elections every few years.