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How to Slow Down (and Be Happier)

We live in a go, go, go world. When I ask people how they’re doing, do you know what the answer I get the most is? “Busy.” Everyone seems to always be doing something. And a lot of people wear their “busy” label as a badge of honor. But busy doesn’t always mean productive, purposeful, or happy. In fact, most of us would benefit from learning how to slow down—and one of the biggest benefits of slowing down is being happier. 

Why slowing down can help you be happier

There’s a simple reason why learning how to slow down can help you be happier. 

It’s this: “Slow” isn’t about pace; it’s about purpose.

Living a slow life doesn’t mean that you do everything slowly. It means that you do everything deliberately.

When you look at it this way, it makes sense that “slowing down” would help you be happier.

Think about your morning. Your alarm goes off. You grumble your way out of bed and to the kitchen for the early-morning beverage of your choice. You jump in the shower, get dressed, grab what you need for the day, and head off to work. 

This routine might take you 15 minutes, or it might take you an hour. Either way, there’s not much enjoyment in it.

Now imagine this: you’ve set your alarm to play one of your favorite songs. You let yourself listen to the whole thing before you get out of bed. You read a chapter in that book you’re loving while you drink your morning beverage. Speaking of that beverage, you take the time to notice why you love it. You drink it slowly and feel grateful for it. You take a quick shower, but you take a second to enjoy the water running down your face and the feeling of being clean. When you get dressed, you pick an outfit you love and that you look great in.

You get the picture.

The second scenario I described doesn’t have to take more time than the first. The difference isn’t the time, it’s the mindset. You can spend the first few minutes of your day complaining about your alarm, or enjoying one of your favorite songs. It takes a couple minutes either way, but one is much more enjoyable than the other. 

Living with purpose

When you live with purpose, you notice the things around you. You feel grateful for what you have. You do things not because you have to, but because you want to. Your life is full of love and meaning. You’ve set up your days in such a way that they bring you joy. Everything has a reason behind it.

Living with purpose invites happiness. When you live this way, everything you do feels less like a chore and more like a step in the right direction.

This is how you design a life you love: you live deliberately, with purpose.

Now, before you start thinking that a deliberate life requires you to savor your morning routine and feel a connection with your shower water, I’ll admit: that morning example was a bit extreme. I’m not saying you have to infuse purpose into every.single.thing you do throughout the day. What I am saying is that when you decide what matters to you, and you slow your life down so that you can do those things with purpose, everything you do, even those little, mundane things, will be a bit better.

How to know if you need to slow down

If you’re wondering whether or not you really need to focus on learning how to slow down and be happier, then chances are … you probably do. The “busyness” epidemic is so prevalent in our world that it’s rare for me to meet someone that wouldn’t benefit from a slower life.

But if you’re looking for some surefire signs that you need to slow down, here are a few:

  • Burnout
  • Physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion
  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Frequently skipping meals
  • A feeling that your life has become like running on a treadmill
  • Low self-esteem
  • Getting to the end of the day and wondering what you really accomplished
  • Not being able to remember the last time you felt rested
  • Always running late or behind
  • Becoming forgetful or absent-minded

How to slow down (and be happier)

The struggle is real when it comes to learning how to slow down. Most of us are so used to a fast-paced life that anything slower feels unrealistic. But even slowing down a couple aspects of your life can help you live more purposefully so you can be happier. Here are some things you can try. 

Convince yourself that it’s necessary.

With the way our world works today, things move quickly and it’s easy to feel like you’re going to fall behind if you slow down. That can be really scary, especially when you have hopes and dreams you’re trying to accomplish.

But remember what we’ve already talked about: the idea that life has to be lived in the fast lane is a lie. Life is happier when lived more slowly—with purpose. Not only that, but many experts believe that slowing down can actually boost your productivity. It’s counterintuitive, maybe, but it’s true.

Eat slower.

We all eat every day; it’s just one of those things that has to be done. But sometimes, it’s easy to grab whatever we can and scarf it down quickly, even if that’s in the car on the way to our next appointment.

A simple, easy change you can make is to commit to eating more slowly. Resolve to actually sit down and enjoy a meal (even if it’s a small one). Notice your food. Enjoy it. Savor it.

Slow down technology.

Technology is a big part of the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Slowing down your technology use might play a huge role in slowing down your entire life. 

Some things you can do to slow down in the realm of technology are:

  • Turn off notifications
  • Unfollow anyone on social media who isn’t bringing you joy
  • Set time restrictions for certain apps, or for your phone in general
  • Don’t multitask with your phone (put it down while you’re eating, watching TV or movies, etc.)
  • Leave your phone at home when you leave to run a quick errand
  • Turn your phone off when you’re spending time with friends or family

Cancel something.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when everyone’s calendars were suddenly cleared, the reactions I heard weren’t all negative. In fact, many people commented on how nice it was to be forced to slow down. No soccer practices, networking events, conferences, or appointments. Just … free time. 

You don’t have to cancel everything to slow down, but it might help to cancel something. Whether that’s a standing engagement (do you really need 3 yoga classes a week?) or a one-time, low priority event or meeting, taking something off your plate can be a great way to slow down.

Schedule rest.

Resting is hard for some people. Even when they’re “doing nothing,” they don’t feel rested, usually because their mind is still going a mile a minute. 

If that sounds like you, it might help to schedule rest into your day. That might look like a short walk, a power nap, reading a book, meditation, etc. The point is to make time for it. Choose something that gets your mind off the day-to-day busyness and helps you actually relax, both physically and mentally. 

Slow your thoughts. 

Along those same lines, slowing down on the outside doesn’t mean much if you can’t also slow down on the inside. Quieting hectic or guilty thoughts can play a big part in helping you learn how to slow down and be happier. 

Meditation is a great way to do this. 

Get outside.

There’s something about nature that feels slower. Maybe it’s because it’s all the modern-day things that make life seem fast: cars, screens, the Internet, etc. Stepping outside and getting some fresh air automatically removes you from the hectic, modern world and connects you to a slower, simpler time.

Turn off the background noise.

It’s incredible how much your environment can create a hectic mindset. If I’m feeling rushed or frenzied at home, one of the first things I do is look for any speakers playing or TVs blaring. Quieting the background noise helps everything feel calmer, allowing you to slow down and be purposeful once again.

Write, don’t type.

Look, I love typing. I love my apps that allow me to take notes and write in my journal. I love being able to type out a quick “thank you” text or email. But there is something to be said for actually putting a pen to paper and writing something down, rather than typing it. 

You don’t have to start writing everything, but try writing something: your grocery list, a birthday card, the thoughts you can’t keep straight in your brain. Writing is an exercise that forces you to slow down and be present. 

Do something that has to be done slowly.

Similarly, anything that has to be done slowly can help you, well, slow down. Some things just can’t be sped up—and that’s a good thing! As they say, good things take time. So bust out an intricate coloring book. Put together a puzzle. Play a board game that takes an hour or two. Do something because it’s going to take some time. It will help you see that the world doesn’t end when you slow down.

When you learn how to slow down, you’ll also be happier. You’ll live a life that’s more intentional, more meaningful, and more like the life you want to be living. So take a deep breath. Go slow. Let yourself observe and enjoy the world around you. You might be surprised at how much difference it really makes. 

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