I am turning 28 next month. Even as I type this I find it hard to believe.
Not because I’m terrified of getting old, but because on the one hand, I feel like I’ve lived through at least three lifetimes, and on the other, it’s like “holy shit I’m almost 30, when did this happen??” I thought that I’d have everything figured by now.
And I don’t. I’m not even close. And that’s okay.
There are two days in a year that usually make me think about time. New Year’s Eve and.. well.. my birthday. Every year, as both of those days approach, I think to myself “where has the time gone??”
So often we tell ourselves “I’ll be happy when ______.“ We’re constantly trying to get somewhere. Life became so busy. So loud. So exhausting at times.
This is why I love my mornings so much. I get to just be. JUST drink tea or lemon water. JUST read. JUST meditate. Nothing else. Then, as soon as it’s time to get ready for the day, the race starts. We glorify busy.
Busy is good.
Busy is what we should strive for- that’s what we’re often told.
But what happens when we slow down? Life gets better. We enjoy the little things, we appreciate them more.
3 THINGS TO DO SLOWER
Eating is probably one of the most important habits where you should slow down. I had a very unhealthy relationship with food for many years as a teen and a young adult. Now, our relationship is special. It’s precious.
If I spend 3 hours making dinner on a Friday evening, there’s no way that I’ll eat it standing up, while also scrolling through my phone. Even if I know I’ll be eating alone, I make it special. I use a pretty plate, or a bowl, a placemat. I’ll sit comfortably in the kitchen and appreciate the texture, the flavors, the smell. Practice mindful eating, and you’ll also notice that you’ll feel full sooner, than you would if you ate your dinner mindlessly, while also watching TV or staring at your phone.
Mindful or slow eating doesn’t mean that you must have this entire ritual where it takes you 2 hours to empty your plate in complete silence. I can’t imagine having big family dinners in silence, with everyone closing their eyes at each bite, chewing each piece of brussels sprout for five minutes, without the kids screaming from time to time or without loud laughs. It’s about avoiding mindlessly shoving the food in your mouth in a hurry, while you’re distracted doing something else. There are many benefits to mindful eating, you can read about them in Leo’s article right here.
If you don’t have enough time to eat your dinner or breakfast slowly, take 5 or 10 minutes in the morning to really enjoy your tea or coffee. It’s a great opportunity to slow down. I always say that practicing mindfulness and being present starts in the kitchen– that is one of the most valuable lessons my Gran has taught me.
Raise your hand if you don’t like waiting in line, no matter how short?
At a doctor’s office, at a grocery store, at the mall, in a car wash or when stuck in traffic. We just get annoyed so easily and want to move up as quickly as possible, don’t we? We tap our feet, check our phones for the time; all while realizing that it doesn’t matter how annoyed we get, it won’t make the line move any faster. The time you spend waiting doesn’t have to be wasted.
Use that as an opportunity to slow down and be present. Look around you, notice the people around you, think about your plans for the evening. Notice your breath, use that time to practice a little gratitude. I always get a little sad when I see people complain about having to wait in line, especially at a grocery store. I’m standing here with a basket full of locally grown organic vegetables, a box of my favorite avocado sushi, a colorful magazine and a bottle of water when in other parts of the world millions of children live in war-torn countries… Why would I complain about having to wait 10 minutes? I know that this is something your mom would tell you when you were little; “you better finish your dinner, there are starving children in Africa!” but it is true. You have so much to be grateful for and standing in that line is a great opportunity to take a look around and see the things that you often take for granted. Things that other people dream of.
Once you get into the habit of bringing yourself back into that present moment, you will never “waste” that time again.
FOCUS ON OTHERS
When I was a kid, I loved when my mom’s friends visited. Not because they always brought a little something for me and my sister, but because we also got to hang out with them (most of the time). We always had to have some cookies and good tea and a bottle of wine; just in case someone showed up. Yup. That’s what all my aunts and uncles did. There was no “let me check my schedule first!”
People would stop by. Just because.
On Saturdays, my mom always baked a cake. Sometimes, one or two of my aunts would stop by during the week after work. I loved sitting in my room doing my homework while hearing their loud laughs coming from the kitchen or the living room. Weekday visits also meant that my sister and I got to go to bed a little later or that we could watch TV.
My cousins, my sister and I actually used to play “aunties” and we’d pretend to be adult women coming over each other’s homes for a chat and coffee. Man, we just couldn’t wait to grow up and be able to hang out with our own friends, in our own living rooms, drinking real wine, (not the blackcurrant juice we pretended to be wine) complaining about our husbands (for some strange reason this was always something we’d talk about on our fake “get-togethers”).
… and then you “grow up.”
Well, then you grow up and you realize that times have changed. Everyone is constantly busy. Everyone’s kids have so many after-school activities that unannounced visits are often out of the question. This is why the time we do spend with others, even if it’s just 30 minutes, is precious.
Just like the food, we should savor that time. Spend time with others, slowly. Notice how their eyes widen and twinkle when they talk about something exciting that’s happening in their lives. How they gesticulate when they tell that funny story about something that happened at work.
I know that it’s natural for us to talk about ourselves. Sometimes we feel like we just have so much to say, we keep cutting each other off- this is something I personally had to unlearn. How? By focusing on the person I’m speaking to. I listen, I watch, I try to take in their every word. If you do this, you end up really being there, in that moment; with your friend, or your mom, or your partner. You don’t just meet, you connect.
I think that there are many other things in life we can do slower (even something as simple as washing your dishes) but these three are some of the most important ones. Or, perhaps what I should say instead, is that those are the things that made the biggest difference in my life.
These three things: eating, waiting, being with people- are all things we all already do, why not try doing them a little slower?