2020 Intentions – resolving to slow down and do less
Updated: Apr 30
We live in a world that seems stuck in fast forward. As a culture, we’re obsessed with speed, racing against the clock to do everything faster and more efficiently. Even instant gratification can seem like it takes too long. Yet trying to keep up with the fast-paced world around us has become a losing battle – with our best attempts ending in exhaustion, resentment, and a misalignment of our priorities. Life moves at such a fast pace that it seems to pass us by before we can enjoy it, sabotaging not only our mental and physical health, but the very goals we sacrifice so much for.
Beware the barrenness of a busy life
To be at peace with ourselves, we first need to know ourselves. This means taking the time to gently confront what is happening within us. Ultimately, this is perhaps the real reason why we find it so hard to slow down: speed becomes a form of denial. It’s a way of running away from the complicated questions that our happiness demands we answer: Am I well? Is this relationship healthy and nurturing? What is my purpose here on earth?
Becoming more mindful about the pace at which we live our lives can help us understand where we want to go next with our lives. Yet, awareness of our choices and appreciation for their impact on us doesn't just happen. Slowing down to do less – and to know ourselves better – is a deliberate, conscious choice.
How we spend our days is how we spend our lives
- Annie Dillard
Mastering the art of slowing down means enjoying each moment instead of merely rushing through it to get to the next. Instead of having merely a busy life, we can aim to have a full life by focusing on being more and doing less.
Here are suggestions to help make 2020 the year you abandon your hectic lifestyle and slow down to enjoy life.
Start single-tasking. Research shows that multi-tasking increases the production of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. It also creates a dopamine addiction feedback loop that rewards the brain when it becomes distracted. Instead, focus on one thing at a time: when you’re reading, read; when you’re eating, eat.
Wake up slowly. Set your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier than usual so you can start your day slower and take the time to welcome the morning and consider what the day ahead holds.Research shows that stress experienced during the early morning can continue to build throughout the day, negatively impacting your afternoon and evening.
Become a slow talker. Instead of hurrying to make a point or win an argument, try pausing before you speak, making your speech more languid, and taking longer pauses between thoughts.
Change your measurement system. Instead of proving who you are (to yourself or others) by how much you can accomplish, start measuring your success less by what’s on your calendar and more by what’s in your heart.
Under-do it. What if instead of giving 110%, you only gave 90%? Would anyone but you even notice?
Disconnect in the early evening. After a day spent attached to our smart phones and laptops, choose a time to power down your devices and shut off the outside world.
Learn to knit. The repetitive rhythmic movement of knitting makes it a creative, calming and centering activity that can help you manage stress and anxiety.
Connect with nature. Being out in nature has been scientifically proven to reduce cortisol levels and increase physical and mental health. Take a deep breath of fresh air, walk barefoot through the grass, or feel the sensation of wind and water against your skin.
Identify what’s most important. While your to-do list may be three pages long, choose the three most important tasks for the day and focus on getting them done first.
Stop texting and start talking. Technology has made communication easier, yet more superficial. Make eye contact and really connect with someone you haven’t seen for a while over a long lunch or drink after work.
Get in the kitchen. Cooking can be as creative as it is nourishing. And few things are more meditative than making jam. Or bread. Or a giant pot of soup.
Make a warm bath part of your evening (or morning) ritual. Running water creates negative ions which can decrease seasonal affective disorder and improve your mood. Plus, it’s a soothing way to end – or start – your day.
Give yourself more time. We tend to underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete any given task, which leads to frustration, pressure, and stress. Double the amount of time for the tasks on your list. If you finish early, use the time to relax.
Send a hand written note. The speed of email increases the momentum of our lives. Linger awhile with pen and paper as you prepare a thoughtful handwritten note instead.
Stop comparing. Instead of being envious of others, trust that you are right where you’re supposed to be and have faith that everything happens for a reason.
Create boundaries. Take a good look at your commitments and evaluate what you really have time for. If you’re overextended, or doing work that doesn’t support what matters to you, start protecting yourself by saying no to projects that don’t inspire you.
Start a puzzle. Jigsaw puzzles offer the chance to unplug and escape from the information overload that dominates our lives. They also exercise the left and right sides of the brain simultaneously, making them a holistic mental activity.
Create your own tea ceremony. The traditional tea ceremony is a form of mediation. It’s also an opportunity to slow down and savor the moment. Buy a beautiful cup or brew an aromatic blend of loose tea leaves in a pot to make the moment even more special.
Take the scenic route. Instead of pushing the speed limit or taking a short cut next time you’re driving, choose the road less travelled – literally – and maybe even get lost for a little while.
Release regret. Every minute you spend wishing you had done things differently, or being mad that things didn’t turn out better, is time that you could spend being grateful and happy instead.
Start a journal. Write the first thing that comes to mind. Capture your feelings and commit your dreams to paper. Add emphasis with color pencils and markers. Don’t censor yourself.
Take the day off. We all need time for rest and renewal, but too often fill our weekends with chores, obligations and unfinished work. Set aside one day a week to sleep late, enjoy your family, hike in the woods, or start a new creative project.
Make time to do nothing. Allow for “empty” space every day . . . and use your free time to be free.