In today’s fast-paced world, I think we’re all looking for ways to slow down and reconnect with ourselves, others and nature. In my experience, I’ve found that sometimes it’s the simplest things that can help us to slow down the most. With this in mind, I’ve created the following list of 15 things to help you to slow down at home, at work and in nature.
1. Declutter your house to make it a restful and restorative sanctuary.
Clutter makes us stressed out and having a tidy home will help us to slow down and relax. Start with the living room and donate all the old books, magazines, board games and toys you no longer want. Once you’ve decluttered your home, even 20 minutes a day of tidying makes a big difference in how light you will feel.
2. Pets and plants boost your health and happiness.
There’s nothing better than getting to cuddle with a furry friend on the couch after a tough day and watching fish swimming in an aquarium is very calming. However, if pets aren’t an option, there are plenty of plants that will look lovely in your home while removing toxins and adding a peaceful presence at the same time. Great plants for the home include the Areca Palm, Rubber Plant and Peace Lily.
3. Cook something seasonal from scratch and eat without distractions.
Autumn/Winter foods that are in season include apples and sweet potatoes and Spring/Summer seasonal foods include broccoli and strawberries. It doesn’t have to be a complicated dish but try to source ingredients locally if you can. Cooking your meals is very rewarding and eating at the dining table without distractions helps to slow down your mealtimes and aids digestion.
4. Have a relaxing bedtime routine.
Put the phone away at least an hour before bedtime, as well as blue light from the phone interfering with your circadian rhythms, you don’t want to be checking notifications or the news just before you try to fall asleep. Instead, have a nice warm lavender bath, put on some soothing music, stretch, breathe, meditate or read a book. Having consistently good quality sleep will help you to slow things down during the day.
5. Get to know your neighbours.
It’s important to be connected to the community in which you live and one of the best ways of doing this is getting to know your neighbours. Offer to watch a neighbour’s house when they’re on holiday or feed their pets and they will often do the same for you in return. A sense of community makes us happier and healthier and it’s a great feeling to know that in times of crisis or stress that you can rely on your neighbours for support.
6. Improve your work environment.
It’s a lot easier to concentrate on your work if you have a clean and clear desk. Start decluttering your desk by filing or shredding all paperwork. Gather all your pens, notebooks and stationery and store them in one area, then give your desk a good clean to get rid of any dirty cups, rubbish and accumulated dust.
Add an air-purifying plant like a Boston Fern or Peace Lily, and some photos or decorative items that remind you to slow down, for example, photos of family members or some foraged nature like pinecones or seashells. Another good idea is to store a stash of herbal teas and healthy snacks in your desk for break times.
7. Choose single-tasking over multitasking.
It has been scientifically proven that single-tasking is more productive than multitasking. By prioritising individual tasks, you can allow yourself the time and space to focus, be creative and solve problems. An example of this would be writing articles between 9-11 am and checking emails between 11 am-12 pm.
Also, when in meetings with colleagues, try to concentrate on what is being said at the moment instead of scrolling through your emails or messages.
8. Set good boundaries.
It can be hard to set boundaries at work, especially if you have a reputation as a person who is good at their job and gets things done, but it is vital to learn to say no to unreasonable requests to avoid burnout over the long term. You have to train people on how to treat you so that they don’t overwhelm you with tasks or take up too much of your time with unreasonable requests or unimportant meetings.
It would be a good idea to advise your manager/team each week on what you will be working on, and the hours you will be contactable so that they know you will not be available to them 24/7. If your boundaries are consistently being violated, despite your best efforts to enforce them, it may be time to look at the culture where you work and see if you can help to bring about positive changes.
As a last resort, if you feel like you’re working in a toxic environment, it might be time to consider a change of job.
9. Take your breaks, lunches, evenings, weekends and holidays.
Whether it’s a 15-minute tea break in the staff room, or a 20-minute walk outside during lunch, make sure to have consistent and regular breaks away from your desk during the working day. Taking breaks gives your brain a rest and slows things down for a while.
If you’ve been working on a problem for ages and can’t seem to solve it, sometimes a simple 5-minute break away from your desk can clear your head, so that you return to working on it in a more relaxed state of mind.
Think about what sort of person you want to be outside of work, do you want to spend your free time with family, friends, exercising, on your hobbies or in nature? Ensure that time away from work is spent on building the life you want rather than constantly checking your emails and worrying about your workload when you return to your job.
10. Connect with colleagues and/or clients.
Take the time to slow down and build meaningful connections with the people you work with. If you’re passing a colleague in the hall and they ask you something, take a few moments to have a chat and see how they are getting on, don’t just rush on by because you’re too busy getting to your next task.
When you take the time to get to know people at work, it establishes a personal sense of wellbeing from feeling like you are a part of the team. Taking a few minutes every day to laugh and chat with your colleagues or clients can not only have a huge impact on how happy you feel day-to-day in your job but also how satisfied you are with your choice of career.
11. Forage when you’re by the ocean or in the countryside.
I grew up by the sea, and foraging has always been a part of the changing seasons for me. In spring, you can harvest seaweed from the seashore and wild garlic and nettles from country lanes. In the summertime, gooseberries ripen, and they can be gathered to make a wonderful jam that lasts year-round.
My father is a fisherman, and throughout the summer we used to fish for mackerel and pollack that could be frozen and eaten during the winter months. In autumn, blackberries and apples are plentiful, and in winter you can gather chestnuts from the forest floor. Foraging slows you down by bringing you to closer to nature and connecting you to where your food comes from.
12. Watch nature and wildlife throughout the seasons.
Whether its birds in the back garden, otters on the shore, kingfishers on the riverbank or squirrels in the forest, take time to notice that wildlife and nature are all around you. Nature watching is a very mindful exercise. I can completely slow down by looking at the robins, sparrows and blue tits feeding at the bird table in our back garden.
During walks lookout for all the different flora and fauna that you can spot and spend time noticing each species. During a recent walk by the sea with my mother, I spotted some Curlews and I was so excited as I had not seen this sea bird for ages. Stargazing is also a great nature watching activity for all the family during the darker winter months.
13. Try taking a relaxing forest bath.
Forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) is a term that originally came from Japan and describes being in the presence of trees. Studies have shown that spending time around trees can improve everything from our blood pressure to our immunity and creativity.
Rather than going for a brisk walk and then home, with forest bathing, you are encouraged to walk slowly and intuitively through the trees. Let your body guide you to where it wants to go, use your senses to immerse yourself in the forest and develop a sense of wonder at your surroundings.
14. Swim in the ocean, a lake or river to refresh your mind, body and soul.
Open swimming is a great way to slow down and immerse yourself in water and nature. You not only feel connected with nature but also get a boost to your swimming confidence, your immune system and overall happiness. Also, there are plenty of open swimming clubs that you can join for an added social element.
Remember, it’s important to do your preparation beforehand and pick a safe swimming area, never swim alone, and always following safe swimming guidelines.
15. Take off your socks and shoes and walk barefoot.
What better way to slow yourself down, feel grounded and connected to the earth than walking barefoot? The next time you’re walking on grass or sand, take those socks and shoes off and feel the different textures under your feet.
Walking barefoot makes you slow down and pay attention to where your feet are being placed with each step, and afterwards, your feet feel like they’ve had a lovely massage. In addition, walking barefoot can improve your balance, gait and core strength.