Published on Dec 02, 2019
I’m a naturally energetic and ambitious person. These attributes have had a lot of positive effects on my life, but they’ve also had negative consequences. I’ve trained myself over time to be anxious—always worried about maximizing my efficiency and getting a lot done. Well, I do get a lot done, but I’ve realized in the last few months that it’s been at the expense of my health.
One of the hardest parts about helping myself relax more is that I’ve trained my brain and body to react subconsciously to my surroundings in a stressful/anxious way. I can tell myself to be more relaxed and not care as much, but I haven’t found that to work for me.
Being present is one of the few things that does work (along with rituals). When I can get myself into the mindset of only doing and thinking about the present moment, I feel my anxiety lift away.
When I manage to get into this state, I’m not doing a task to achieve a goal, I’m simply doing it for the sake of doing it. This releases my mind from worrying about how fast I’m doing it, how well I’m doing it, if I should be doing something else, etc.
Even “being present” isn’t something that’s easy to do, though. I’ve been working on it for at least a year, and while I’ve definitely gotten better, there are still days where I can’t rip my mind from the worries of life.
The most successful strategy I’ve applied to pull myself back to the present moment when I’m feeling stressed is to slow down. I’m convinced that presence requires deliberate slowness.
When I reach for my glass of water, I do it slowly, noticing all the points between the start and end of my task. When I’m writing my blog, there’s deliberate slowness to the keys I’m pressing. I’m not rushing from point A to point B, worrying about getting to point B the entire journey. I’m focused on each keystroke and character I type.
I don’t think deliberate slowness means you actually have to be physically slower. Athletes often say that when they’re performing best, it feels like everything is moving in slow motion. There is deliberate slowness baked into states of flow. Perhaps I’m conflating intention and deliberate slowness a little, but I do think there’s a difference. I think deliberate slowness is required to reach intention, and it’s often the missing link in the chain towards presence.
After a certain point, your brain simply can’t process quick enough and still operate with a high level of intention. You can’t be present if you’re going too fast to notice or acknowledge it.
There’s a lot of research that shows people who are less stressed over their lifetime life longer. Perhaps this is why most (if not all) of the places in the world that have an unusually high percentage of centenarians treat time much differently than modern society. Time for them is approximate. They don’t worry if they’re late or early. Time is the most constrained resource on the planet and I think it causes a lot of stress in our lives. It forces us out of the present and into worrying about your project at work, your financial situation, etc.
And now molecular research is confirming this hypothesis on stress. Higher levels of “RELAX” proteins in the brain (which inhibit neurons from becoming overexcited) have recently been linked to longevity. It’s a bit paradoxical that by moving slower (and by extension being present) we might be able to actually buy ourselves more time in the long run.
Move slower to be more present. Move slower to be happier. Move slower to to live longer.