The Art of Slowing Down
By Yasmin (she/her) who wrote this in her pink dressing gown, and likes to drink lime water in a wine glass to feel fancy.
It can feel like our world is running at an electrifying speed. We have mobile phones at hand 24/7. There’s neverending bleeps. Instant shopping. Claustrophobic ‘Click here!’s, and constant ‘breaking’ news. Sometimes it feels like living in a state of such fast-paced urgency, means the trinkets of life found in the slow, mundane, and simple moments are slipping away from us.
When’s the last time you stopped to look at a flower? Observing its petals. The vibrancy of its colour. And how it moves in the wind amongst other flowers?
Or do you ever make a homemade curry instead of getting a takeaway? Smelling those fragrant spices and mixing them like a potion. Tasting the sauce in tiny sips like a renowned chef testing for saltiness with immaculate precision?
Maybe such moments sound nice, but totally out of reach. So how do we really slow down and make the most of the days we are living in, and turn off that bloomin’ racing autopilot mode? You may be thinking, “Yas, I’m studying up to my eyeballs, and barely have time to brush my teeth in the morning, let alone take a two hour long bath and meal-prep all of my food for three weeks! How am I supposed to slow down and relax?!”
Well anxious human… read on!
Firstly, by slowing down, I don’t mean going through life like a snail who ate something funny and now slides in super slow-mo. Instead, I mean settling that churning brain of yours and developing tools to help you feel more aware and calm while navigating a busy (or not so busy!) life. I’ll be sharing some of the things that have helped me whenever I’ve felt overwhelmed by the pace of the world.
“I started listening to guided meditations on the bus.”
When I was still in school, I started listening to guided meditations on the bus ride almost every morning. As someone who experiences very heightened levels of anxiety, I find that meditation helps me to ground myself with simple tools and techniques. It really calms the swirling tornado of thoughts that congregate in my head.
I know what you’re thinking, meditation is boring and you’d rather listen to heavy metal screamo that really wakes you up! I do too sometimes. However, starting out with a simple guided meditation like one from the Calm app is a good way to build your ability to observe your current environment. Meditation is often thought to be a practice of ‘removing’ thoughts and silencing the mind. But I’ve come to realise that it is much more about practising noticing your thoughts, and observing them without judgement or criticism. It’s not about having no thoughts, but it’s about becoming more aware of the thoughts that are there — and seeing them just as ‘thoughts’ rather than ‘fact’.
When I started meditating on my daily bus ride, it helped me to stay grounded, and lean into thoughts and feelings of social and general anxiety, and face them with a fresh perspective. I no longer shied away from observing people’s facial expressions or clothes. And I didn’t push away the feelings of embarrassment I’d get if someone made eye contact with me. I began to notice that if I allowed myself to maintain eye contact for just a second longer, I’d more often than not get a friendly smile that seemed to uplift my mood. Because I was becoming more aware of my environment, I also began recognising familiar faces and I gained more confidence to jump in to help others, or offer people my seat with more ease than before.
Something else that has also aided me in living a slower and more mindful life is building my emotional literacy. Emotion wheels have helped me a lot in understanding the connection between my feelings and what might be triggering them. All too often, it’s easy to get swept up in anger or feel overwhelmed by sadness — and everything in life then gets filtered through that emotion — but learning to sit and observe my feelings means they don’t have so much control over me.
Instead, I can start to ask myself questions to find the root causes about why I’m feeling upset or why I reacted unkindly to someone. I’m more able to notice my inner critic (mine can be surprisingly cruel at times, how about yours?!). Rather than go through the rest of my day being irritable and unkind, I can become aware of what’s triggered that emotion and then get back to doing the things that I love and which bring me joy.
Being more present in the small cracks of my day where I find myself thinking negatively or feel more foggy-headed than usual can make all the difference. Even if it’s just asking myself, “what’s led to this feeling of sadness?”, and acknowledging the answer. Or one quick, “huh, that was actually a really nice conversation!” or, “I should take this route more often, I liked seeing the warm orange light from that streetlamp shine on the cobblestone like that”. Whether I’m acknowledging my internal feelings, or the beauty in the world around me, it all helps me to slow down… be present… and find life that little bit more enjoyable.
I recommend a Spotify playlist called ‘I’m Thrivin’
Listening to certain types of music with more intention starts the day with good energy! I recommend a playlist on Spotify called ‘I’m Thrivin’ — the songs on there make me feel powerful and motivate me to tackle the day ahead with more self-compassion. Another playlist might be more your thing, but just try leaning into whatever brings you gratitude and joy — and watch how your life starts to feel slower, even if it hasn’t had a drastic change in routine.
Living more slowly. With more awareness. It’s a game-changer. On which note, I’m going to go and blast some positive tunes whilst mindfully folding my disorganised doom pile of clean laundry!
Include this article in your Skills Builder Journal. It could help you develop...