In this fast-paced world we are constantly “on”, not only our environment is demanding but we are also the ones that demand the most of ourselves. I plea for slowing down. Slowing down, turning off, and accepting instead of demanding. I believe we’ll end up happier and healthier beings.
We have come to an era where we think anything is makeable. We are the creators of our own life. We want the career, significant friendships, meaningful relationships, travel the world, a family life. We schedule, plan, organize, train, and work hard to keep all balls up in the air. We want to get everything out of life, live up to our and everybody’s expectations and we believe that taking it slow is a waste of time.
Why we need to slow down
On a daily basis, we receive an information stream through mainstream media, social media, and everyone around us. So, we are constantly experiencing an information overload. We are relying so heavily on these technological innovations; we wake up and check our phones; we answer it on the toilet; we are instantly available on WhatsApp; and we answer our work emails before going to bed. We are never “off”.
We have no patience and expect to be served instantly. We walk away if we see a queue. We get upset if we have to wait in traffic or public transport. If we are hungry we get our food delivered right away. We have no patience.
We became high achievers and perfectionists but do we ever wonder who demands all this? We feel guilty if we are not achieving, not demanding, not doing. Now I say that is exactly what we should do. Do less, want less, slow down. That’s how we will be happier and healthier.
There used to be a time that stress was very useful. In cases of immediate danger that threatened our lives, our body prepared for a fight or flight reaction. Most of the stress we experience nowadays comes not from immediate, present moment dangers but from unpleasant experiences we keep chewing on, or worrying about things that may or may not happen. We were designed to be under stress for no more than 20 seconds. By that time, we were either eaten or able to move on. The problem nowadays is that we are under stress for long periods. We are not able to relax and balance back, and the stress accumulates until we are confronted with burnouts and stress-related diseases.
When we are under stress our body prepares for action and our muscles tense, we breathe quick and shallow, our heart pounds, and non-essential functions like digestion shuts down. If we don’t relax after stress our body’s systems don’t get back in balance which can be damaging and harmful. Prolonged release of cortisol, for instance, disrupts the immune system and accelerates aging. We need to relax so our heart rate slows down, normal blood flow resumes, and good hormones are released like serotonin, melatonin, and GABA. Chemicals that improve wellbeing, stronger physical health, mental balance, and reduced inflammation.
So, we need to slow down and relax for better health. But slowing down can also have a significant impact on your sense of wellbeing and happiness. Whether it concerns our personal or professional life we are constantly working hard to achieve our goals. Perfectionism is considered a virtue and we keep on working to do better and wanting more. But when will we stop striving and see that good is just enough? When will we accept contentment as a virtue? Happiness starts with being content with what is. We need to slow down and be content.
Our fast-paced lives make us want to move as fast as possible to our destination. And in our pursuit for our goals and destinations we forget to enjoy where we are now. In our minds, we are already in the future, whereas contentment can only be experienced in the present. We need to slow down and be present.
If we are present, we can become more aware of the subtlest sensations. When you allow yourself to move away from an over-stimulating environment and step into silence and stillness, you can start listening and feeling again. We have become highly disconnected from our bodies, completely unaware of all the signals and signs our body is giving us. We expect our body to perform and deliver and completely disregard its needs and boundaries. Sickness and aches are a sign of disbalance, which we mostly fight with medicine instead of going for the root cause. When we are not well we like to blame something outside of ourselves. Accepting that we are responsible for our wellbeing will take us further. We need to slow down, to think less, and start feeling again.
So how do we slow down? Overcome your impatience, your restlessness, your scattered and wandering mind, your ambition, and your ego. Allow yourself to do nothing. See if you can stop doing and surrender yourself to just being. Letting things be just as they are and accepting whatever may arise. Without judgement, without opinion, without analyzing and overthinking. You may find it to be the most rewarding thing your ever (not) did.
Conscious Contributor: Nathalie Rasing
Nathalie Rasing practices and teaches Iyengar yoga, yoga nidra and Tibetan energetic healing. You can join her monthly deep restorative sessions.