This is a peaceful paddock I drove past the other day. I felt compelled to stop and take a photo. But this article is not about moving to the country in order to slow down. The great news is you can slow down wherever you live. You can slow down to the point you may even have time to take a drive in the countryside!
As we know families are running pretty fast these days. Everyone is tired, many are exhausted. Mums run in and out constantly between things like school lifts, activities, jobs; driving everyone everywhere. The average family has a ton of stuff both on the schedule and in the house. But it is not just adults that are affected. Teens and even young kids are struggling with mental health issues. Many marriages are survival zones rather than a joy. The speed of life in the west is not healthy. We all know that. And no one seems to have time to even reflect on how to change things.
You however are reading this article so you managed to find a few minutes! How about being a rebel and making some changes? Let’s quit being dismayed and actually do something different. And let’s model something healthier for the next generation. Do you want to take some steps? Want to slow down?
First of all, nobody says we have to live like this. There are no rules that say you have to be super busy. Busy is not morally superior to living slower. You are allowed to slow down. In this article I will take you through some steps that sound so simple but can significantly change your lifestyle for the better.
Be the boss of your phone. I want to suggest the first step in slowing down your life is to turn off notifications -sounds and alerts – on your phone. Do we let people barge into our house and demand attention whenever they want to? No! You have a front door to stop that. So how about some boundaries on your personal space and your thought life too! A phone can be a constant INTERRUPTER, or we can the boss. Your current moment of reading, thinking or conversing should be sacred and you should be able to focus and enjoy it. It only takes a few changes in your settings. If you can’t figure it out grab the nearest 10 year old. You can check messages when you want to! No generation ever in the history of time had their thoughts interrupted like this. We don’t need to either.
Talk slower and walk slower. If you talk slower, you slow down your thinking. It is calming for yourself and the person hearing you. If you walk slower you will also feel calmer and notice the sights around you.
Sit totally still for a little while every day. If possible out in fresh air. If possible look at some greenery, listen to the breeze (or rain). It is very calming. If you are a person of faith like me, you might already be doing this when you spend some focussed time with God each day.
Block out chunks in your diary for family and rest. If you want a less hectic life pace some proactive steps can help a lot. Get your diary planner and literally cross off regular chunks of time every week into the future for one day every week for relaxing, alone or with those you love most. Put something like family time, date time or rest time. If anyone asks you to do something and you look in your diary you can legitimately say you are booked up. That way that time block is protected from the requests and expectations of those outside your family unit. My husband and I were taught this in a class by a time management teacher and it has been really helpful.
Quieten the home visually. Has your home become a bit too busy visually? Try this: gather all your ornaments and decorations in a box. Stand in your home and look at the clear surfaces and walls. Breathe. Then just bring back a few items. Maybe you can chuck some away, and rotate the rest now and then. They don’t need to all be out at any one time. Own your space.
Be fully emerged in your current moment. If you are listening to your child read out loud, then be there, fully. If you are hanging up the washing then think about the smell of the leaves on the trees near you, the feel of the washing, and the sights around you. Do no think about what you are cooking for dinner on Saturday night, or Christmas plans. Only think about the current moment. Multitasking is very tiring for our minds. I think God gave us only 7 days a week and doesn’t expect us to do 12 days of stuff in it. See next section on ‘Thinking Time’.
Schedule in Thinking Time. Since multi-tasking isn’t actually that good for our brains, we need to set aside time for thinking. Set aside a dedicated time for thinking and planning each day or week. Do it with a notebook and you need at least one session a week, with your spouse if you have one. Your Thinking Time may be early Saturday before the kids wake up, or before you go to sleep at night. Whether we run a household or an International business we all need Thinking Time. Don’t underrate it. So many complexities in the week can run way smoother if you have thought about them ahead. E.g. how to handle a parenting issue, or where to book the next holiday, or if you should take on a certain commitment. You can save a lot of time, cost and stress by thinking through plans and logistics.
Life isn’t a race to do the most or have the most. Those of us who realise this are the winners.
Think for a while before saying yes to anything. If someone asks you to do something, whether it be to bake for a bake sale, water their plants, or run a whole comittee, say ‘I will think about it’. You may need an hour or you may need a month but anything we say yes to, will mean we will end up saying no to something else. If you are a parent then remember that one day you will wake up and all your kids will have grown up and moved away. Enjoy the time with them now, as you can do other stuff later.
Minimise possessions. This is a biggie that can impact you way more than you dream. If your house is full of stuff your life will be very busy trying to tidy and maintain all those items. Start with one drawer or shelf at a time and choose what you love and need. Donate or chuck the rest. Imagine if 500 items went out of your home this month. That would be 500 items you would never need to tidy up, clean or maintain, EVER again! SO MUCH time would be freed up! And try going on a shopping fast for a month to practice reducing the inflow.
Cutting back work hours. Most people dream of this but two things stand in their way. 1. They think they won’t manage financially if they do, and 2. They think their boss will not let them. 1. I can tell you that we spend so much more money when our life is hectic; we get more ready made food and we don’t have time to pursue cheaper food shopping / insurance / petrol etc. It is astounding how much cheaper one can live when one has a bit more time. The reduction in your take-home pay won’t be as dramatic as you may think as the top tier of your income is taxed at the highest rate. 2. As far as the boss at work goes if we do our job well, then firmly request to cut our hours a bit they may not mind. Also, people who work less than full-time are more productive so this is a point to mention!
The biggest reason most people work so much is because of bills. There are endless ways to cut costs which reduce pressure too, but I’ll discussing that in another blogpost quite soon. It needs a whole blog post of its own!
I hope there have been a few ideas in this post to inspire you to slow down and
b r e a t h e .
Simplifying means more time with the people we love most. At the end of our life they are the only ones we will care about, and the only ones who will be there.
If we rush around too much it is not actually possible to feel as emotionally connected with anyone. The kids grow up so fast and one day they may live continents away (like 2 of our older daughters). I am SO glad I spent tons of time with them when they were growing up. But there were a few very busy seasons I regret too. Don’t be robbed of precious relationship time and depth. You most definitely don’t have to live life fast just because everyone else does.
Life actually isn’t a competition to do the most, or have the most. Those of us who realise this are the fortunate winners.
Have a beautiful week.