Slow Down and Ease Up: A Sanity-Saving Approach to Life
Slow Down and Ease Up: A Sanity-Saving Approach to Life
The year we’ve just left behind wasn’t an easy one for many. More than a few people I know are looking for a little more joy and a lot less drama in 2017. With challenging experiences comes perspective. So instead of striving to reach new heights, do more and be more, I am taking a different approach. I aim to embrace a more peaceful life, to focus on what I really love and to adjust my definition of success. See if any of these ideas strike a chord for what you’d love more of in the year ahead.
Welcome home. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of opening your front door, dumping your bag and kicking off your shoes after a day out. You have the whole evening to spend as you please because you — on purpose — have said no to busyness.
Tip: Turn off your Wi-Fi, put your phone on flight mode and plant yourself on the couch. You can do some coloring, flick through a cookbook or lose yourself in a page turner.
Sensory upload. Most people spend the majority of their time indoors. But the benefits of taking in the sights and sounds of nature — even if just down at the local park — have been proved time and again by scientists. “The more high-tech our lives become, the more nature we need to achieve natural balance,” writes Richard Louv in his book The Nature Principle. In addition to lowering blood pressure, heart rates and cortisol levels, time spent in nature is known to reduce stress, improve immune function and facilitate good .
“The outdoor world can expand our senses and reignite a sense of awe and wonder not felt since we were children,” Louv writes. “Nature can help us feel fully alive.”
Human-perception researchers are also concluding that we have more senses than just taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. We could have as many as 30 senses, and what better way to ignite them than through nature?
Streamlined living. Rushing is the new normal, but in 2017, I’m going to say no to that. Instead, I’m looking to slow the pace and increase my enjoyment.
Tip: Reduce your wardrobe to go-together pieces you love, and put systems in place at home and at work to streamline your day. Doing so will cut down on the number of decisions you have to make and free up a surprising amount of time.
Nourish and nurture. If you think of your day as being broken up into thirds, what you’d like to prioritize becomes crystal clear. About eight hours is dedicated to , eight more to work, and the rest is yours to do with what you will. It makes sense to spend as little of that time as possible on chores you don’t enjoy, and as much time as possible on taking care of yourself.
Tip: If you can reframe how you think about chores and turn them into tasks you enjoy, so much the better. Cooking nourishing meals, for example, can become a time to unwind, have a chat (even if it’s a video chat) and get creative. Not convinced? Add wine and your favorite music.
Practice gratitude. We’re programmed to want to earn more each year, progress up the career ladder and acquire the things we covet. But what if, even just for this year, you take a breather and say, “I have enough; I am enough”?
Getting to this point requires taking stock of everything you have that’s great — it could be your health, having a job that enables you to make your mortgage payments or rent each month, or simply having enough to eat. If you can count any of these things as blessings in your life, you’re doing better than most people on the planet. Appreciate it. Take a pause. You are enough.
Slowly does it. It can take practice to build breathing space into your life. The idea is to make downtime as appealing as possible. Don’t just take a bath, for example — soak in an aromatic bubble bath with a candle or two and some ultrasoothing music by your side, or with an ice-cold beer, if that tickles your fancy. Whatever works.
Tip: If you don’t have a bathtub, or if it’s not your thing, think about what else you could do that makes you slow down. Meditation, long walks, writing, reading, drawing, cooking — try a few activities and see what sticks.
Meaningful connections. Squeezing in a quick coffee break with a friend shouldn’t be a challenge, but packed schedules and commitments often mean it is. What if, instead, you planned ahead for an unhurried get-together over lunch with the people you like most or would love to get to know better? Lingering over good food with friends is considered one of life’s greatest pleasures across the globe. More of it, I say.
Worthy weekends. Right now I’m spending time thinking through what I genuinely need to do on weekends so that any free time I have can be value-packed with things I love, rather than just packed. Careful thought is required here, because some things that I fill my time off with don’t immediately spring to mind as things I love. I don’t leap out of bed on Sunday morning eager to work out, for instance, but I love the extra energy, feel-good endorphins and fitness that come with it. Therefore, I love exercise, I’ve concluded.
Finances on autopilot. The more money we make, the more we tend to spend — that’s just human nature. If you’re not a budgeter or naturally frugal, at least put as much of your income as you can into savings every time you get paid. Set up an automatic deposit into your savings account — your spending will soon adapt accordingly. I do this already, but this year, I’m going to increase the portion I save. The more I save, the more travel choices I’ll have. And what better way is there to spend money? If you’re more sensible than I am, you should probably put a little extra into your mortgage each month as well, even if it’s just a few dollars.
Stop … in the name of love. Saying what we feel, showing that we care, spending quality time — these are things we often wish we’d done more of when crisis strikes and we lose someone we love.
The beginning of a new year is the right time to ensure that you have no regrets later. Write a letter, hug a little harder, laugh a little more, give someone your full attention. You know what to do.
House into home. In the spirit of Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo’s KonMari method (she encourages keeping only what sparks joy in your home), I vote that 2017 be all about getting in touch with the person we really are and what we really love, and reflecting those values, quirks and favorite things in our homes. Fortunately, trend forecasters are predicting an “anything goes” decorating movement in line with our desire to make our homes a haven from the harried world outside.
Go gently forth. Living a more relaxed life doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams. Determining what you want has a habit of putting the wheels in motion and setting you on a path to eventually achieve your goal without undue pressure. Tape up a photo or two by your desk of your dream vacation, home or symbol of what you truly want, then have a little faith. Taking small steps toward your goals each day may suddenly feel easier.