Seven ways to live life instead of racing through it

In a world where drive-thru funerals now exist, Carl Honore shares his mission for a world that no longer thinks faster means better.

Woman relaxes on her bed

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Do you frequently feel like you’re moving way too fast, perhaps hitting the bed every night exhausted but with little sense or appreciation for the content of your day? Maybe it’s time to slow down. In a new book called The Slow Fix, Carl Honore (who Newsweek described as “an international spokesman for the concept of leisure”) offers a prescription for a world obsessed with speed. And here, he shares his top tips for slowing down and living better.

Q: In what ways has our world sped up?
A: In almost every way. We walk fast, talk fast, read fast, eat fast, make love fast, think fast. This is the age of speed yoga and one-minute bedtime stories, of “just in time” this and “on demand” that. Surrounded by gadgets that perform minor miracles at the click of a mouse or the tap of a screen, we come to expect everything to happen at the speed of software. Even our most sacred rituals are under pressure to streamline, accelerate, get up to speed. Churches in the United States have experimented with drive-thru funerals.

Q: Can you share your own story of being addicted to speed?
A: In the bad old days, my life was an endless race against the clock. My wake-up call came when I found myself toying with the idea of buying a collection of One-Minute Bedtime Stories. In other words, Snow White in 60 seconds! Suddenly it hit me: I’m even trying to speed up those precious moments with my children at the end of the day. There has to be a better way, I thought, because living in fast forward is not really living at all.

Q: What is “the slow movement”?
A: It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savouring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.

Q: What do we lose out on in our sped-up world?
A: We end up racing through life instead of actually living it. We fail to take full pleasure from things because we’re always rushing or distracted. We lack the time and energy to forge deep, meaningful relationships with others and ourselves. We make more mistakes and think less creatively at work. Too much rushing, busyness and stimulation also wears out our bodies and minds.

Q: How can slowing things down make us happier?
A: By slowing down we start living every moment fully. That means taking more pleasure from everything we do. We become more creative and efficient at work. We eat better, boost our energy and reinvigorate our health. We build stronger relationships. Slowing down also brings an inner calm and gives us the time and space to reflect deeply. All of which can make us happier.

Carl Honore’s top seven tips for slowing down and living better:

1. Breathe. Slow, deep breathing re-oxygenates the body, which slows our heartbeat and stabilizes blood pressure. When you feel panicky, stop for a moment and take a few deep breaths.

2. Speed audit. Stop and ask yourself if you’re doing whatever you’re doing too fast. If you are going faster than you need to when you do the audit, go back to the task more slowly.

3. Downsize your calendar. Look at your schedule for the next week, pick the least important scheduled activity and drop it. This will take some of the heat out of that particular day.

4. Schedule unscheduled time. Block off two hours in your week when you don’t plan anything in advance. This will guarantee you some time when you can slow down to your own rhythm.

5. Set aside more in-between time. We tend to schedule our events so tightly that we end up running from one thing to the next. So if you normally schedule 10 minutes to get from one activity to another, schedule 15 minutes instead.

6. Unplug. Pick a moment every day when you turn off all your gadgets for 30 minutes. It might be the first half hour after you get up, or the moment you return home from work.

7. Find a slow ritual. Find a slow ritual that acts as your personal brake and helps you shift into a lower gear. It might be gardening, yoga, cooking, knitting, painting, whatever.

Tell us, what do you do to slow down?