These strategies can help us be more present in the here and now.
1. Take the Long View
When you feel yourself reacting to some external stimuli with an impulse to speed up, push pause. “During this brief time-out, imagine yourself looking back on this ‘crisis’ a year from now,” says Honoré, “and notice how insignificant it will look then.”
Becker-Phelps offers a similar suggestion. “Ask yourself: At your 100th birthday party, how will you feel good about having spent your time?” she says. This can help clarify your priorities and bring a wiser perspective to your current urgency.
Once you’ve sorted out what’s truly important to you — family time, meaningful work — you can choose to make more room for those experiences and learn how to savor them.
2. Make Time by Doing Less
“We have a deep-seated conviction that more work, more enrichment activities for the kids, more likes on Facebook or Instagram, more stuff would be better,” writes Christine Carter, PhD, a senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less. But, she adds, “unless we like feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, we need to accept that more is not -necessarily better.”
Carter recommends taking the minimum effective dose (MED) approach to activities in your life — spending the minimum amount of time on checking email, meditating, and exercising that you need to feel effective and balanced — and liberating yourself from other people’s expectations or demands on your time.
3. Schedule Unstructured Time
Honoré suggests picking consistent times of the day when you switch off all technology. Maybe it’s at dinnertime or in the hour before going to bed. He also advises incorporating a slow ritual into your day. Whether it be yoga, gardening, reading a novel, sketching, or playing an instrument, choose an activity that “inoculates you against the virus of hurry.”
Butera notes that nature is particularly effective at entraining us into a slower rhythm. “Go into nature with no devices,” he advises. He also recommends taking one day a week away from all technology, wherever you are. “We all need a regular tech sabbath.”
4. Check In
“Stop at random moments throughout the day and ask yourself if you’re going too fast,” advises Honoré. “If you are, return to the task or the moment more slowly.” If you find yourself automatically reaching for your phone at a red light or in the middle of a conversation, pause, notice the impulse, and imagine it’s an ocean wave you’re surfing, using your breath to maintain balance as the wave rises and eventually subsides.
5. Build a Buffer
Slowing down can be tough if you’re afraid you won’t live up to your obligations. “We pack in events so tightly that we end up running from one thing to the next,” says Honoré. “Or we go into firefighting mode, because even the slightest delay can throw off our tightly wound schedules.”
You can avoid this simply by building in more time between commitments. If you normally schedule 10 minutes to get from point A to point B, allow yourself 15 minutes instead. If you do find yourself running late, remember that it’s not worth the danger of speeding or driving erratically. It’s better to arrive at your destination 30 seconds late than in the afterlife 30 years too early.
Learning to slow down might be tricky at first, but let’s face it: The time we have on Earth is limited. Shouldn’t we do all we can to enjoy it while we’re here?
This originally appeared in “What’s the Rush” in the November 2017 print issue of Experience Life.