Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.— Eddie Cantor
We live in a fast-paced world where multi-tasking has become the new normal, and doing things at a regular speed is frowned upon. But, sometimes, we just need to slow down and enjoy life. We need to breathe, relax, and savor the moments that will one day disappear.
The problem? North American culture has speed and the desire for instant gratification almost ingrained in it. We want things and we want them now. From fast food, to high-speed Internet, and on-demand everything, we don’t want to have to wait for things.
To further exaggerate the issue of living our fast-paced lives, the lines between personal-life and work-life have become blurred.
Our always-connected society is now at work around-the-clock, with constant interaction through social media, text, and email that have only been exasperated by the rise of the machines that are dominating our lives: smartphone, tablets, smartwatches, and soon enough, augmented reality devices.
Yet, if we want to keep our sanity, sometimes we have to learn how to slow down and really enjoy life. We have to savor those fleeting moments. We really do need to just stop and smell the roses. When was the last time you did something like that?
When did you just stop and enjoy the present moment without judgment or reflection towards the past or fretting about the future? It’s hard to do for just about anyone, but especially hard for us North Americans who are so used to that fast-paced and always-on lifestyle.
I know that I’ve asked myself this question many times before. So, I’ve come up with a list of 10 useful ways that anyone can simply slow down, enjoy their lives, and learn to take pleasure in the simple things that matter when everything else is stripped away.
Slowing Down and Enjoying Life
Life is short. It passes by quickly. In the blink of an eye, we grow up, we graduate from school, we get married, and we have children. Then, we watch our children grow. All the while, we’re rushing through life, trying to hurry things along and get things accomplished.
But for what reason?
Well, why can’t we just be happy in the present moment? Why does it take some “thing” to make us happy?
I know, I know… this conversation goes contrary to any capitalistic society that’s focused on entrepreneurial growth and success. But, what I’m saying is that you can have your cake and eat it too.
Here are some of the ways that you can slow down and enjoy life without sacrificing your goals and plans for the future.
#1 – Breathe
Breathing involves a set of metabolic reactions that are required for the cells in our body to convert energy into ATP and then release the byproducts through exhaled air.
Proper breathing is necessary from a physical perspective, as it dictates the quality of life that you live. It’s the most essential part of human survival and the brain is consuming 20% of your supply of oxygen by consuming 20% of the supply of blood in your body.
Anything that negatively affects breathing, should be eliminated from your life. Things like smoking, over-eating, and stress all have a negative impact on our ability to optimize breathing.
There are a variety of breathing techniques that you could use to help you slow down and enjoy your life. All you have to do is focus on your breath – breathe in through the nose, hold that breath, then breathe out through the mouth.
Dr. Weil talks about a number of breathing exercises you could do. One called the 4-7-8 is used to enhance relaxation and eliminate stress. Inhale for 4 seconds through the nose, hold that breath for 7 seconds, then exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat this exercise until you feel relaxed.
#2 – Get a Pet
There’s a reason why a dog is called man’s best friend. Pets can bring untold amounts of joy to our lives. Studies have proven that pets can help us live longer and happier lives. They add joy and contentment by providing unconditional love and companionship.
Sadly, people who are without pets might not experience that kind of love in their lives. It allows us to slow down and appreciate the simple pleasures and enjoy everyday experiences.
Pets also “provide a meaningful support system for their owners” according to one study. When we’re sad or going through an emotionally difficult time, those pets are there to cheer us up. Pets also make us more conscientious, outgoing, and help us to lead healthier lifestyles according to other studies.
#3 – Be Present
It’s hard to slow down and enjoy life when we’re constantly living in the past or worrying about the future. We have to be present if we want to get any joy out of life. While being present might be hard for some, there are a few simple techniques that you can use to achieve this.
First and foremost is gratitude. By having a profound appreciation for your life and everything in it, no matter what the problems might be, you can reap far more enjoyment out of simple pleasures. Problems will never disappear.
Waiting for problems to disappear before we slow down and enjoy life is akin to waiting until we die. The only time we’ll lack any problems is when we’re buried six feet under. But it’s gratitude in the here-and-now that allows us to appreciate what we do have rather than what we don’t have.
Being present can also be achieved through things like exercise, yoga, and meditation. Physical activity has a way of jolting you into the present moment. It also helps you take back control of your health and fitness, resulting in a happier and healthier you.
#4 – Less is More
Life can become cluttered with too many things. With so many things going on in our lives, and with the accumulation of so much “stuff,” how are we ever expected to slow down? When we’re racing from one transaction to another, never really reaping the benefits of happiness, how can we ever enjoy life?
Simplify. Declutter. Organize.
Purge the “things” from your home, your office, and your life. Get back down to the basics. Create a set of goals and a mission statement for what you want to achieve out of life. Every morning, recite those to yourself and in the evening before you go to sleep, ask yourself if you came any closer to attaining it.
Dwindle your to-do list down to the items that really matter. Take pleasure from the things in life that really matter: family, relationships, and connectedness. We’re only here for a very brief time. We mustn’t clutter that time with too many things.
#5 – Drive Slower
Our minds are constantly racing and we’re distracted by our 24/7 interconnectedness. Because of it, we do everything else quickly, including driving our cars too fast. We’re always rushing to get from one place to the next with no end in sight.
But, according to studies, 1.3 million people die in car accidents every year and another 20-50 million people become injured or disabled because of it. While not all accidents are avoidable, we can do our part to slow down and pay more attention to our surroundings.
When we’re distracted, we become more careless. There’s a reason why texting while driving is illegal in most places now. Slow down and drive slower, even when no one else is looking. Enjoy your surroundings and appreciate the world that you live in.
#6 – Chew Your Food
Amongst all the things that we do too fast in life is also eating. We want fast food and we want to eat it fast. We don’t want to wait around too long to get that quick fix. Did you know that 1 in 4 people in America eat fast food every single day?
Did you also know that 20% of all Americans have eaten in their cars? This says a lot about our eating habits. Not only must we chew our food slowly, but we also have to eat healthier food rich in nutrients rather than pre-packaged and pre-prepared food full of bad stuff we shouldn’t be putting in our bodies.
While the concept might be foreign to most folks, there is a significant change that happens in the body and the mind when our diet changes. When we chew our food slowly and opt for healthier menu choices, there’s a dramatic shift that occurs.
Even if your diet were not to change, according to a study by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you might consume less calories of any given meal if you chew that meal and eat slowly. The same study also found that eating slowly and mindfully might actually shrink your waistline.
#7 – Avoid Multi-Tasking
We’re notorious for our ability to multi-task. We love to do several things at once as opposed to one thing at a time. But, in order to slow down and enjoy life, we have to focus on doing one thing at a time and doing it the right way.
This means that we have to go above and beyond the call of duty, even when no one is watching. The general consensus is to try to get things done quickly and “efficiently,” even if that sometimes means sacrificing quality.
When you find the desire to do many things at once, pause and breathe for a moment. Take a mental step backwards and refocus your efforts. Hone your skill and commit to doing and completing that one task to the best of your ability.
#8 – Travel & Explore
Not everyone is afforded the luxury to travel. But it doesn’t take a lot to go somewhere, even if it’s only one night and even if it’s in your own city. From camping to a staycation nearby, there are loads of affordable options available.
Traveling allows us to slow down, recharge our batteries, and enjoy life a little bit more. When we can unplug and kick our feet up, we can better appreciate the simple pleasures. Plan a vacation that you can go on today, no matter how short or nearby it might be.
The simple act of planning will help you to manifest that travel into your life. If you’re so inclined, you could also use sites like CourchSurfer and Airbnb to find free or very affordable shared housing options.
#9 – Contribute
Contribution is an important part of any life. It involves giving to others. Not necessarily a monetary contribution. You can contribute your time and energy to a cause. You can volunteer at a homeless shelter, or head to a retirement home and just spend time with the elderly.
There is always a way to contribute something of your self at some point in time. Life is about spreading as much value as possible. When we shift the focus from a me-driven world to a you-driven world, we get to appreciate all that we have and are.
Most of us are blessed with so much that we often take it for granted. We overlook the things that we do have and focus on what we don’t have. But there are so many others out there who are living in a state of poverty, famine, disease, and violence. We have to help those that are less fortunate.
Contributing helps to slow things down and enjoy life for all the things that we’ve been blessed to have rather than what we don’t have in the here-and-now.
#10 – Eliminate Distractions
When was the last time you disconnected from the Web? When was the last time you sat and enjoyed a conversation over a meal without a device blaring somewhere in your reach? I would argue that it’s been a while.
Yet, if we’re to slow down and enjoy life, we have to eliminate distractions. We have to cancel the noise. We have to disconnect all of our devices. This doesn’t mean you have to go offline for good; it just means you have to block off some personal time.
Whether you engage in a hobby or have an in-person chat with a friend, cancel out all the noise surrounding you. Turn off the TV, disconnect the Internet, power down the tablet, and turn off the smartphone. Did I miss anything?
You’ll be far happier when you do this for a short period in your day. Take an hour or even two hours to just disconnect and eliminate distractions.