Don't Just Spring Forward - Give Slow Living a Try

If you live in the U.S. or Canada, you probably know that daylight saving time begins this Sunday, March 10th.  (In Europe, you still have a couple of weeks before summer time begins.)  Yes, it does seem to arrive earlier each year, although the current law which has it begin on the second Sunday in March has been in effect in the U.S. since 2007.


The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the World Sleep Society oppose daylight saving time and call for permanent standard time.  The U.S. state of Arizona is one of only two states that does not observe the change (the other is Hawaii), citing energy conservation as the reason.  With the hottest metropolitan areas on the continent, having an extra hour of sunlight while people are active would cause them to run their cooling systems longer, using even more energy than they already do.  I believe the same is true here in the Sacramento Valley, but California has chosen to observe DST.


clock at the Ferry Building, Port of San Francisco



The tyranny of the clock


As we all adapt to darker mornings (for a while) and lighter evenings, we also seem to get even busier.  Some people love the change.  Golf courses, for example, collect millions in extra green fees.  Retailers are happy because people shop more when it's light after work.  Some people join sports leagues or plan outdoor parties.  Of course, daylight hours increase as we get nearer to the summer solstice, no matter what our clocks say.


It's odd to imagine living by the sun in our modern society.  We're so used to clock time, which controls our lives.  Work, school, and appointments are scheduled by the clock.  Live TV shows and pro sports events are ruled by it.


Slower living in our fast-paced world seems impossible, yet we aren't machines.  Our bodies, like almost every living thing, respond to the sun.  We need time to rest and recharge.  And we feel less stress and get things done more efficiently when we single-task, instead of trying to cram more activity into the same time slot.





5 tips for slower living


1.  Pay attention.

Much too often, we go through life on autopilot.  We speed through our days without noticing what's around us.

  • We don't notice the weather except to turn up the heat or air conditioner.
  • We don't notice sounds except loud, intrusive ones.
  • We don't notice scents unless they're putrid or we're hungry, and then we eat too fast and too much to really taste our food.

And what do we feel?  Certainly not the warm sun on our faces, the soft fragility of a blossom, the grittiness of sand, or the varied textures of tree bark.  Even if we must spend all day inside, do we feel the difference between desktop, pen, paper, keyboard, and phone?  Probably not.


If you want to stop feeling so rushed and pressured, slow time by paying attention to what you're doing while you're doing it.  Improve your connections to others by paying attention to the people you encounter.  Do better work by focusing on important tasks.  Don't wait for a big bucket list experience to engage with your life – experience the details of every day, and you'll feel more alive.


clock at Grand Central Terminal, New York
2.  Resist devices.

I'm guilty of checking my blog statistics and royalty reports much too often.  I binge watch TV and scroll social media.  But this causes me to ignore natural rhythms and miss what's happening in the real world.


Our devices have trained us to expect immediate results, so waiting for anything has become less tolerable.  This can make it impossible for us to delight in the world around us, because the most interesting things don't move or change quickly.  Try watching a baby, the change of seasons, or even a sunset.  Did you know wildlife photographers and film makers will wait for hours – even days – alone in a blind just to get the shot they're looking for?


Reserve one or two blocks of time for tending to emails and texts so they don't interrupt you throughout the day.  Delete notifications so you're not constantly tempted to check in.  Choose one or two evenings a week for streaming, and leave the others open for something that doesn't require an internet connection.


3.  Say no.

It's so easy to become overcommitted.  We hear of an interesting opportunity, or a friend asks us to get involved, and we say yes without thinking.  We wind up frazzled, neglecting pursuits and people we care about, and dreading those extra meetings and activities.


Remember that everything you agree to requires a trade-off.  When you say yes, what are you giving up?  Family time?  Personal time?  The ability to focus on your priorities and life mission?


If you ever want to control your schedule instead of letting it control you, you need to start viewing your time as a precious, non-renewable resource.  Instead of thinking about everything you could possibly say yes to, choose what you want to focus on.


Related article: How to Say No


4.  Plan free time.

It's stressful and exhausting to be constantly on the go, so establish blocks of down time on your calendar.  Give yourself a chance to anticipate and prepare for a busier afternoon or evening by making it a bit rarer.  Leave that margin so you have more energy and fresher ideas for the obligations you choose to undertake.


Observe a weekly Sabbath.  Whether it's Saturday, Sunday, or another day (and if you serve in your church or synagogue, it needs to be another day), give yourself and your family one day a week when you have no obligations.  Then you have the freedom to spontaneously choose an activity you enjoy or that captures your attention.  Or you can simply rest.


5.  Give thanks.

Instead of getting caught up in what others have or in our own desires for the latest and greatest, let's notice how much we already possess.  Loved ones, health, safety, a home, an education, the beautiful creation we live in, a job, food, clothing, and so much more.  When we focus on what's great about life, we're less inclined to feel dissatisfied or become bogged down by our difficulties.


A gratitude journal can help you make this a habit, and gives you something wonderful to read and reflect on when you need it.





Keep it simple.


Life is simpler when we slow down a bit, and it's certainly happier when we fully experience our surroundings and save our energy for our most meaningful activities.  So don't just spring forward this weekend – slow down.




Comments

  1. Thanks Karen, wise words as always. I love your writing and this article is especially timely for me as I plan to retire this summer and embrace slow living full time. Change can be tough at times, even when it is wanted. Your advice about a gratitude journal will help in the tough times. There was a pop song in England called ‘reasons to be cheerful’, which seems a good title for a gratitude journal and a good motto for life. Fully experiencing our surroundings is great advice too. Hiking and cycling holidays made me realise how much more we experience by moving at a slower pace and not being isolated from our surroundings by speed and several tons of metal, plastic and glass. More of that when I’m not in a rush. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

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