At some point in our lives most of us have dreamed of a simpler lifestyle. No more stressful meetings. No more late-night text messages from inconsiderate friends or creepy exes.
But no matter how many times we wish for a long overdue break, we never seem to be able to slow down. Getting out of the fast lane, though, isn’t impossible. Living simply is actually very … simple.
Here are 12 ways to slow down and start living your life more fully each day:
1. Get back to nature. Hiking, bicycling, rock climbing and other outdoor activities are a great way to slow down. It doesn’t matter what activity you choose, as long as you are surrounded by lots of fresh air … and leave your cell phone and other electronic devices behind.
2. Go offline. In our world of constant connection, this may seem like worn-out advice. But turning off your electronic devices can give your mind a break from the overstimulation of the Internet. Start with an hour a day and work up to a whole weekend (or more).
3. Get a head massage. There’s something sinfully simple about having a head massage. Many hair salons offer this service, with or without a hair cut. To slow down even more, try a heated towel face wrap afterwards.
4. Go on a date. When you really connect with someone, it is that much easier to slow down. For your date, pick an activity that gets you out of your routine — maybe walking in the park, having tea at an out-of-the-way shop, or reading to each other.
5. Watch a sunrise. You haven’t lived until you’ve watched the sun rise. Find a quiet place to sit alone or with that special someone — the beach, on top of a mountain, the roof of your apartment building. Then relax and let the beauty of the sunrise wash over you.
6. Take a bath. As children, we live in the bathtub. As adults, we forget the stillness that comes from being immersed in warm water, surrounded by luxurious bubbles. Find a time when you won’t be disturbed, light a few candles, and sink into watery goodness.
7. Cut the cable. If you aren’t ready to give up television, try canceling your cable service and switching to on-demand services or renting DVDs. This allows you to watch TV only when you are in the mood to be a couch potato. And you might even save money in the long run.
8. Walk mindfully. Walking is not just a form of transportation. You can turn any walk into mindful meditation by slowing it down. As you walk, really notice how your feet connect with the earth. Return to this sensation every time your mind starts to fill up with other thoughts.
9. Visit a bookstore. This one is best for rainy days when you can curl up in a chair in the store, or plop yourself down on the floor in the kid’s section. And even if you don’t find any books that you want to buy, you can still slow down the pace of your life by browsing through the shelves.
10. Make a detour. We often rush from work to home to shopping to home and back to work. Make a point to get off your beaten track at least once each week. Stop by a yard sale. Drop into a café at the end of an alley. Or take the long way home through the park.
11. Meditate. Meditation is all about slowing down. If you haven’t tried it before, take a class or pick up a mindfulness meditation CD. Commit to five minutes a day in the beginning, at a time when no one will bother you.
12. Take a music bath. Just like a hot water bath is soothing for your body, a music bath can restore your soul. Find some relaxing music that you enjoy, turn down the lights, lie down and close your eyes. Then let the music wash over you.
The world is not going to get slower, and devices are not going to uninvent themselves. Ten years from now, we’ll be dealing with things that make texting and Skype look really old-fashioned. And the machines aren’t going to teach us how to keep our sense of balance. That part is up to us.
~ Journalist and writer Pico Iyer from “Want to Be Happy? Slow Down” on TED
- Meditation maze at Rural Rootz, Ontario © 2012 by Shawn Radcliffe
- Pond at Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland, Oregon © 2011 by Shawn Radcliffe