Have you ever driven somewhere and when you arrived you realised you don’t even remember any the journey? I’m sure many people can relate to this.
This doesn’t only apply to commuting though. Often we miss out on the details of the meals we eat, the details of our workday, showering and many more activities.
Yet we only get one life, so why not appreciate every moment? We often hear people say “I’ll slow down when I retire” but why do we have to speed through life until then.
There are many things we can do right here and now to mindfully appreciate every task we do, and the upside to slowing down is we can train our brain to be less stressed and anxious at the same time.
Here are a few common themes we can apply this technique too.
Slow down your eating
Do you ever woof down your food because you’re so hungry it barely touches the sides? I know I do. But what would happen if we took the time to eat slowly and mindfully?
We will appreciate the meal much more for a start. Not only will we appreciate it more though, our whole experience can change.
If we chew slowly and allow the food to sit in our mouth longer before taking the journey into the stomach our saliva actually starts to break down carbohydrates before we even swallow.
This has the added benefit of acting as “pre-digestion” and taking some of the work away from the stomach digestive process.
Another benefit of eating slowly is we can pay more attention to the process of eating. Savour the taste, and listen to the body. This helps us avoid over-eating too by listening to our “am I full yet?” signals.
Often, we will over-eat too and not realise until we finish the meal. By then it’s too late and we sit on the couch in a “food coma”.
But we can learn, through experience what quantity of food will create a “food coma”, and then stop before we hit the point of no return.
This will also allow us to learn portion control without counting calories.
Slow down your shower
Do you jump in the shower, first thing in the morning, thinking about the days long to do list, be it home chores or work TODOs?
Brushing the teeth, scrubbing the body, washing the hair all on autopilot without thinking about what we’re doing. But what if this was the perfect opportunity to start the day mindfully, and set the tone for the rest of the day.
We are often quite aware of our todo list, so why bother rehashing it? Instead, try focus on the tasks – and the breath at the same time. It is quite a challenge, even Dr Russ Harris has trouble getting through a 5-minute shower mindfully!
I know I struggle, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. Try brushing your teeth, focusing on the feel of the electric toothbrush – be aware of the feeling as you slowly move the brush around. At the same time try and focus on the breath – the movement of the belly moving slowly in and out.
When it comes time to wash try the same thing. Remember to slow down, do all the actions slowly and deliberately. Move the hands through the hair slowly, thinking slowly, breathing slowly.
I have no doubt your mind will interfere with something that happened yesterday or might happen tomorrow but those events aren’t relevant to your experience right here and now.
Slow down your commute
Ever find yourself rushing through traffic, in a hurry, maybe you’re late for work? The red light goes green, foot goes down and you accelerate back up to speed as quickly as possible, mind going through irrelevant events.
Here is another perfect opportunity to slow down. Not only is it safer to pay more attention to your driving, and might knock big dollars off the annual fuel bill but it’s also another opportunity to slow down your thinking.
By slowing down our thinking, we also slow down our body which gives us a compound effect of relaxation. We then slow down our behaviours, and thinking, so on and so on.
Slow down your sleep routine
There is absolutely no doubt that a good night sleep is essential to our well being. The process of sleep is important for many bodily processes from repairing physically, to processing and sorting memories.
But how can we ensure we get a good night sleep? By ensuring we have a good sleep routine.
We should aim to start our routine at the same time every night. Our body is great at learning cues so by having a consistent bedtime routine, this will aid the body in knowing what time to sleep, and what time to wake up.
But the wind-down time proceeding sleep is also important. Watching your favourite soccer match, yelling at the TV and getting all emotional might not be the best activity to proceed sleep.
Try playing around with more relaxing things to do right before sleep. Reading fiction even for 15-minutes before bed can be a great way to get the mind away from the problem-solving mode.
Dimming the lights a few hours prior to sleep is also a good way to slowly introduce the mind to the impending act of sleep.
Slow down your thinking
For all of these tasks, and more, try slowing down your thinking with deliberate actions. Thinking slow. A good way to slow down your thinking is to focus on the movement of the breath.
Not only will this slow down your thinking, but it will slow down your breathing and activate the parasympathetic nervous system to counter cortisol, stress and anxiety.
You will have random thoughts, and that’s fine. We all have them and none of us can stop them. But a side effect of focusing on the breath is often we can slow down these random thoughts too.
Focusing on the breath, pick a movement such as the stomach moving in and out and think to yourself “innnnnn breath, ouuuuut breath”. By consciously thinking in and out in a slow manner, we can also control our actions if we are in the process of doing a task too.
For example, if we are walking through the mall to do grocery shopping we can start to walk slow, breath slow and think slow. Look around, see what you notice while also breathing slow, and thinking slow.
It may sound silly or pointless, but it need only take a few minutes a day. Over time though, all of these cumulative moments can start to rewire our anxious brains.