Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Slow Down

Do you think life is moving too fast? I mean, here we are in the first few days of May and the year is flying by so quickly. Looking at how much has changed in my life over the last four months is pretty scary, and I feel like I haven't had a chance to slow down and acknowledge or even appreciate it.

But what if we could slow down the pace of life and learn to be mindful of the moment we’re in? Is it possible to make time for gratitude and become of aware of our surrounds?
“Strange, what being forced to slow down could do to a person.”
― Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song

I think we can, and I have four steps for doing just that.

It all happened after I read Richard Carlson's book 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff'. It encourages us to make small daily changes that will help us find calm in a hurried, stress-filled world. In the book, Carlson presents tips towards achieving this sense of calm. These include;
- Become an early riser
- Don’t interrupt people or finish their sentences
- Allow yourself to be bored
- Be happy where we are

From these tips, I’ve developed my own steps for finding happiness in the here and now. These four steps will help you slow down the pace of life by looking after yourself first, reclaiming lost time and being mindful.

Here's my 4 steps to slow down:

1) Reclaim your mornings
I’ve been a sucker for sleep ever since my depression hit me. Having struggled to find any rest during the worst of my down period, I have clung to sleep as my refuge from the world ever since I started taking medication for my illness. In fact, I schedule my life around getting my 8 hours sleep. So much so, I was leaving myself with only half an hour to get ready for work in the morning. But our mornings shouldn't be a huge rush to get out the door. So I reset my alarm clock and became a lady of 6:30 am starts. This extra half an hour has so far allowed me to:
- Have a fruit salad with yoghurt and porridge for breakfast
- Sit down with a cup of tea
- Make my bed
- Check my diary and to-do list for the day
- Take time to pick my outfit and do my make-up
- Wash my dishes before I left
Having done all of that, I still make it out the door by 7:30 am every morning. I don’t have to rush to work and I even have the time to stop in the shops on my way in.
Don’t be put off becoming an early riser by the thought of not getting enough sleep. You can still get your 8 hours, but prioritise going to bed earlier rather than sleeping-in. Reclaim your mornings for YOU, not the tasks you have to rush through before you get out the door.

2) Cease Multi-tasking
One sure fire way to slow down is to stop doing so much. ‘Ah, but I’m a busy, in-demand person’ I hear you say. But no needs to go 100mph 24/7. It's perfectly okay to take on less, stop trying to do everything at once, and better organise your priorities.
Learn to say 'no'; no one can do everything and be all things to all people. It’s okay to take a step back when we have taken on too much.
Time Blocking
Be organised. Prioritise what does need to be done and do that. Create multiple to-do lists for daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. Set up monthly reminders to check your budget and top-up your phone.
Try out different productivity techniques, like time blocking, to get more done in a shorter amount of time. Focus on one task at a time and give it your full attention.
In 'Slowing Down to the Speed of Life', Richard Carlson claims that your productivity actually increases by slowing down. He claims that quitting multi-tasking can stop your analytical thinking, allowing you to concentrate in your fullest on the completion of one goal at a time and reduce stress.

3) Take Me Time
I’m a strong supporter of the benefits of self-care. In fact, I harp on about it so much, I dedicated a whole month to the topic back in February. It's imperative that we look after ourselves before we can start looking after other people.
Allocate set time to ditching the schedule and pampering you; putting your needs first.
To make 'me time', I ensure I have one dedicated evening a week free just for me. You can spend your evening doing activities that help you relax and unwind like watching your favourite TV shows, lighting your scented candle, reading, taking a bath, colouring-in, practicing yoga or whatever may take your fancy that evening. The most important thing is to have no to-do list, no urgently required emails to respond to, and have an early night.
Taking one evening out is effective in boosting both your mood and productivity for the next day.

4) Press Pause
Every now and again, we also need to press pause on life. Take some time to soak up where you are, what you have to be thankful for, and where you want to go next. It’s a chance to heighten awareness of your environment and reflect on your journey.
Rather than rushing to move on to the next chapter, the next day, the next big thing I'm saying take a moment to stay where you are. Think about how you got to where you are. Be proud of your achievements. Celebrate your accomplishments; even if they are the little things.
Be happy here. Whether your medicine is mindfulness, meditation, keeping a gratitude diary or journaling, it’s important to find happiness in the present moment. Use these tools to build an awareness of your surrounds and your place in the world.

"Reconnecting to simple moments in life, truly living moment by moment." - Patrizia Collard, 'The Little Book of Mindfulness'

These four steps work to cultivate a new way of looking at the world and help you to find a new, slower pace for your life. I've already been putting them into practice over the past few weeks and have been thoroughly enjoying my new pace of life. Rather than rushing from one location, one task, one thought to the next it's important to just BE sometimes.

Until next time,

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