Slow your pace to enhance your life

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Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist (LCSW). He can be reached through his website at lifebeyondtherapy.com.  Are you afraid to slow down? Have you ever rushed yourself so much that you got everything done but didn’t enjoy any of it? You’re not alone.
 
Why is it so hard to slow down? Other people seem to move so fast, we feel like losers if we go slower. We think that people who cram the most stuff into their days must be happier than we are. We’re encouraged by ads, music, movies, videos and other media to move faster, do more.

Advertisements tell us not to miss a single text message or cell phone call. See the latest movie. Don’t miss the newest restaurant, the hottest club, bar, store, trend or… see what I mean?

It’s hard to slow down and be in the present moment. Many of my clients find themselves always racing ahead asking “What’s next? What’s next?”

It’s difficult to be 100% where we are. Our minds race ahead to the future and we miss the present. Clients tell me that they can’t fall asleep because their thoughts race so much. For them, slowing down and being where they are – exhausted, in bed and ready to fall sleep – is really helpful. Our bodies want us to slow down: will we listen?

Slowing down and being in the present will greatly improve your qualify of life: take eating, for example. Slowing down when you eat lets you really taste your food, you eat less and you actually notice what you eat. You’ll digest better and slowing down the eating process reduces emotionally-based eating. If you’re sad and lonely, you’re less likely to reach for Ben & Jerry’s if you slow down and notice how you feel.

It’s like really fabulous sex, or a great book – when it’s savored, and each moment is truly appreciated, time almost seems to stand still. When things are really good, there’s a sense of timelessness. Think of the times after wonderful sex when you’re just lying there with your beloved – doesn’t time just seem to stop and the clock is meaningless? This is another of the joys of slowing down. Still think it’s only for stupid people?

Joseph Goldstein, author of “Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom”, recommends this simple philosophy: “When you eat, eat. When you walk, walk. When you meditate, meditate. Slow down and do one thing at a time.”

Sounds old-fashioned, right? But, check this out: recent studies in brain chemistry show that it ages our brains faster the more we multi-task and split our attention in many directions at once. It tends to fry our neural circuits and the quality of information sent along the nerve synapses is less clear and concentrated than when we do one thing at a time.

Want a concrete example of this? How about your gym workout? Most well-educated trainers tell you to focus completely on the exercise you’re doing: tune out all distractions and concentrate on your body and what it’s doing. Rushing through exercises and weightlifting is how many people get injured. Some trainers even tell you to lighten up your weights and do your exercises very slowly for maximum strength.

So take a tip from weight loss experts, personal trainers, meditators and your humble columnist: slow down and pay attention to what you’re doing. You’ll enjoy it more and it’ll be much more productive than you can imagine.

Slower is better: try it and see.