Slowing down to speed up sounds like a contradiction, but slowing down allows you to reduce stress and focus. With that reduction in stress and a greater focus, you are better prepared to meet life’s challenges.
Have you ever wondered what your life could look like if you had more clarity, better focus, reduced stress, and a sense of purpose—all while having success in your career, meaningful relationships, and the time in your day to enjoy the things you love? Have you ever wondered how some people manage to have it all while you’re struggling to keep up and feeling exhausted at the end of your day? The answer is to slow down so that you can speed up.
Examples of Successful Slow Downs
Some of the world’s biggest influencers have shared how they slow down, take time for mindfulness-based practices, and follow a consistent daily routine. Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Richard Branson have all been known to hold highly productive walking meetings, where they get moving out in nature while talking through their business dealings. According to a Stanford University study, a person's creative output increased by around 60 percent when they were walking. Imagine how having access to higher levels of creativity could enhance your performance in whatever area of life you wanted!
- Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur and author of the 4-Hour Work Week, has a routine of making his bed, meditating, exercising, and spending time journaling each morning before starting his daily work. Having a routine of mindfulness enables you to anchor into a state of awareness that results in higher levels of focus and follow-through. If you see distraction and chaos externally, you are sure to experience the same internally—and vice versa.
- Phil Jackson, former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, would meditate with his team of the NBA’s most elite players to focus the team’s mindset right before stepping onto the court. He knew the key to better focus, greater self-awareness, and more cognitive flexibility is in taking the time to meditate. His teams won 11 NBA championships following his lead—the most in NBA history. He taught his team that connecting more deeply inside enabled them to experience higher levels of productivity and success on the outside.
- Arianna Huffington, president and editor in chief of Huffington Post Media Group, has a daily practice of yoga, meditation, and contemplation. “Stress-reduction and mindfulness don’t just make us happier and healthier, they’re a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one,” she wrote. “Happiness and productivity are not only related, they’re practically indistinguishable.”
Conditioned to Go, Go, Go
If so many of today’s icons have shown you the way, why is it so hard for you to follow suit? It begins with your beliefs. You are conditioned to believe that happiness comes from success. Society has taught you that to be successful, you need to be out in the world accomplishing, achieving, and acquiring during every moment of your waking day. Whether you learned it from your parents or your peers, this is likely a pattern you’re familiar with and it’s at the core of today’s epidemic of overwhelm, exhaustion, and burnout.
You’re convinced that there’s not enough time, money, support, or you to go around. In an effort to survive, you push harder, work longer, and take on more. In the end, you’re spinning and spinning yet nothing is being accomplished. When you get going too quickly, mistakes are made, you say things you don’t mean, and you make poor choices in terms of your health and well-being. The fallout from this can result in the loss of important relationships, physical illness, and a sense of being disconnected from yourself and your purpose.
The American Psychological Association supports the practice of mindfulness meditation through proven benefits such as boosting memory, reduction of stress, and being less reactive. Taking downtime to get restful sleep, spend quality time with loved ones, and do things that bring you joy prove to be highly rewarding practices in business, within your interpersonal relationships, and for your overall health and well-being. Yet, you may believe you could—or should—be spending your time more productively.
When you understand the psychology of success and happiness, it’s clear that in order to be successful in any area of life, you must first tend to a daily routine of mindfulness. You must redirect your energy and attention inward to fuel your energy, mindset, emotions, and physical bodies. You need to slow things down, come back to your center, and become present to what is in this moment—right here, right now.
Here are five practices for helping you to slow down so that you can be more productive, more successful, and more purpose-based in your everyday life.
1. Get Restful Sleep
You may tend toward burning the midnight oil and waking up the next day feeling just as exhausted as when you passed out. The key to getting restful sleep is to have an evening “wind down” routine to disconnect you from the busyness of your day. Try turning off the television by 8 p.m., dimming the lights and running a hot bath, and doing some light reading or journaling. Using essential oils to calm your mind, playing some chill music, and getting to bed with lights out by 10:30 p.m. will help you ease into a nice slumber.
2. Rise Early
Set your alarm for somewhere between 5–6 a.m., wash the sleep away, and spend some quiet time setting intentions and steeping yourself in gratitude for all the gifts you have in your life. The early morning hours, before the rest of the world is awake, are some of the most peaceful hours in the day. Spend this time doing contemplative practices like prayer, envisioning your goals, and connecting more deeply with your purpose.
Installing a practice of mindfulness meditation for a minimum of 20 minutes each day will help you develop and cultivate a greater level of self-awareness—both during your practice and in your daily life. Awareness is critical for getting out of your mind and into the present moment. Taking time to sit in stillness and silence each day connects you more deeply to who you truly are—outside of your positions and possessions—and shines a light on what’s truly important to you.
4. Get Physical Exercise
Regular exercise is great for both body and mind. Getting the body moving increases your circulation and does wonders for improving your mood, spiking energy levels, and even combating many common health issues. Getting a solid movement routine into your day also demonstrates to yourself that you are worth investing in and that your mental, emotional, and physical health are of paramount importance.
5. Spend Time in Nature
Can you remember a time when you just let yourself unplug and enjoy time in nature? Do you remember how it allowed you to settle into a place of total contentment and peace? Time in nature—whether it’s sitting out on your porch, watching a sunset, or taking a stroll through a park—can do wonders for your energy and mindset. Find time each day to connect with nature in whatever way you’re able, and begin to notice the calming effects it has on you throughout the rest of your day.
Remember that when you’re spinning out in life the fastest and most effective way to ground yourself and become present is to anchor into a tangible, physical practice. This will teach you to become a master at self-discipline and—before you know it—you’ll have taken back control of your life and be living in a place of harmony.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.