19 | The Deep Benefits of Slowing Down

It isn’t easy to keep up with the pace of life. It can feel like time is running away, and there’s always more to do than we can manage. So it’s no wonder many people are trying to figure out how to slow it all down.

But what does slowing down mean? What do we want to let go of? And how do we make these changes in a world that expects more and more from us?

In this episode of The Gentle Rebel Podcast, I want to go beneath the surface and explore some of the profound benefits of slowing down.

Benefits of Slowing Down - A Picture of Andy Mort in the back of a red stagecoach.

Slow Consumption in a World Of Instant Knowledge | 2:41

This topic is on my mind as I plan the next Haven Book Club. We are reading The Courage to Be Disliked, to which we will dedicate the next four months.

What will slowing down make possible? How much more will we see, explore, and experience by not rushing? What will greet us in the gaps between the sessions and the vast depths as we reflect and process the ideas, and our conversations about them, over time?

It’s reassuring to know that we could quickly acquire an overview of a book’s core concepts if we had to. So what if tools like Blinkest, StoryShorts, and Snapreads allow us to take our time with the books we want to read instead? To mine the depths for the kind of wisdom and mindful insights that don’t come from knowledge hoarding.

These valuable tools can reinforce and support our goal of slowing down. But only if we choose to approach them that way. If we only ingest bitesize nugget versions of books, we might struggle to open space for the inner conversations that lead to self-awareness and intentional growth.

Slowing Down and Control | 8:23

Slowing down can help us let go of the need for control. It’s about understanding that growth starts with roots that emerge from seeds planted in the dark. These are processes beneath and beyond our field of vision. Not an easy thing to do in a world that likes quick and visible results.

What’s The Point of Personal Productivity? | 10:53

I spent a lot of time, money and thought on productivity tools and time management techniques. I would hand hours over to designing my “ideal week” and perfect processes to deal with emails, social media, and my morning routine. But invariably, the more I focussed on being productive, the more overwhelmed I felt.

This “productivity trap” is where we end up using productivity to free time to do more. It seems obvious, but it doesn’t feel like it when we’re stuck in that mode of thought, where we tell ourselves that with the right formula, technique, or process, we will finally have all the time in the world for the important stuff.

This is accompanied by that dreaded feeling that we should be doing more. Because there is always more to do, even if we optimise our routine and clear our schedule, “more” will slip in.

If these productivity techniques are not helping us do what we’re already doing but slower, they are probably not helping us.

Rather than asking, “what do I want more time to do?” maybe we could ask, “what do I want to be able to do more slowly if I choose to?” We can use that as a starting point from which to design the foundations of our life.

How Does Slowing Down Reduce Stress? | 13:31

I had some fun with ChatGPT recently. It’s a fascinating (slightly terrifying) tool that I believe might be able to inadvertently reconnect us with our humanity. Recognising where we have given ourselves to machine-like actions and behaviours and reconnecting with the creative play that makes us who we are.

I thought I’d ask how slowing down reduces stress. It told me that slowing down can help reduce stress in a few different ways:

  1. Slowing down allows you to break from everyday demands and pressures
  2. It can help you gain perspective and prioritise your tasks
  3. Slowing down helps you become more present – getting caught up in your thoughts and worries about the future is easy when rushing through life
  4. It can help you cultivate healthy habits – allowing you to engage in activities that promote relaxation and well-being

Nothing particularly groundbreaking in that response. Perhaps a reminder that we know why slowing down is a good thing to do.

What Would Help Me Slow Down in Life? | 15:38

I got a bit more practical with my questions. Could ChatGPT shed any light on HOW to slow down? Apparently so. But aren’t they things we’ve heard a million times before?

It said that are many things I can try to help me slow down, including:

  1. Set limits on your commitments. Try to be more selective about what you take on, and say no to things that don’t align with your values or that you don’t have the time or energy for.
  2. Practice mindfulness. This means paying attention to the present moment and your surroundings rather than getting caught up in your thoughts or worries about the past or future. You can try mindfulness meditation or focus on your breath and surroundings for a few minutes each day.
  3. Take breaks throughout the day to rest and recharge. This could be as simple as taking a few deep breaths or walking outside.
  4. Prioritise self-care by engaging in activities that promote relaxation and well-being, such as exercising, spending time in nature, or doing something you enjoy.
  5. Schedule time for activities that bring you joy and help you relax, such as reading, spending time with friends and family, or pursuing a hobby.
  6. Find ways to streamline and simplify your daily routine, such as decluttering your space or creating a to-do list to stay organised.
  7. Instead of rushing through tasks, try to be more mindful and present as you go about your day. This can help you feel calmer and more focused.

There’s a pattern emerging. It sounds right, but I’m not sure it helps us get to the root.

The great thing about ChatGPT is that it gives us a rundown of what doesn’t need to be repeated. So what are we missing if these points have been made enough times for chatbots to regurgitate them with such familiar sentiments? Why are we still trying to figure out how to slow down?

Perception of Pace | 22:40

How we perceive time is quite a weird thing.

I remember when I first performed with a drum machine (pre-programmed sampler). Even though it was set at the same tempo as the original song, it felt slow when playing live.

The world slows down when we are in a heightened state of alertness. But our ability to connect with what’s happening around us can be impacted.

It might be helpful to consider the role stress plays in our relationship with time, focus, and attention. Are we seeing, hearing, and feeling things as they are, or does reality conform to what we expect and anticipate?

What Do We Want When We Seek a Slower Life? | 27:51

What sits beneath our desire to slow life down? Where do we feel things slipping away? What causes us to rush? Why is slowing down one of those things we know we want but struggle to do?

Slowing Down Our Important Tasks | 30:42

Maybe we are caught in the habit of rushing, where we speed through everything without any apparent reason.

We might have learned to fill our lives with busy work because slowness is the worst thing. It means laziness, lacking ambition, wasting time and taking up valuable space.

There are a lot of value judgements and stories of worth associated with the pace we bring to life. And many ways we shape our lives so that we might avoid the critical and judgemental voice from having a go at us.

Perhaps we have a lot to do, so we cannot spend much time on the things that matter. Maybe life feels like a to-do list, and we’ve got to get from one thing to the next. Everything is essential; everything is urgent.

So the solution we are after is not necessarily slowing down but doing less, outsourcing responsibility, or getting help. If we focus on slowing down but still have the same number of things on the to-do list, we increase the amount of strain and stress on our plate.

The Risk of Rushing | 33:40

We might associate speed with value. Fast things are good things. But what about rushing? If you’ve ever tried to do something in a rush, you’ve probably experienced the ironic delay from needing to tidy up mistakes, misunderstandings, and spillages.

Sometimes rushing can get us where we don’t want to go more quickly.

Speed as a Tool | 35:56

Learning to slow down isn’t about rejecting a faster pace. It’s about learning to choose it when it’s necessary. Speed changes are a tool we can pull out of the box when life requires it.

Why Do Time Management Tools Make Us Busier? | 37:05

There’s a strange paradox at work in time management. The more efficient we get, the busier we become. As we’ve already looked at, the tools we use to eradicate stress become sources of stress.

Enjoyment is Not The Destination | 40:12

Not having the things we want is where we find enjoyment—it’s all about the journey towards the thing that makes the thing itself meaningful.

Hipsters know this (even if they’re not necessarily aware of why). It’s why they spend an hour brewing a cup of coffee when they could do it in five minutes. It’s why vinyl rose in popularity as music became instantly accessible through streaming platforms.

Where Do We Get to Slow Down Now? | 43:45

The more we solve the problems we think we have, the less true enjoyment we have access to.

What would you like to enjoy more in this way?

Slowness is a Beautiful Waste of Time | 45:14

We are spending four months on one book. How does that sound to you? What might it make possible?

Does that seem like a waste of time? Or a rich, deep, and expansive experience?

Do you think of fast as good and slow as bad?

Do you think slowing down is uncomfortable when there’s so much to do, see, and experience? How do you stop and find peace when there’s more to do, see, and experience?

Why I Call Myself a Slow Coach | 46:56

Slowcoach is a bit of an insult. It describes someone moving or acting slowly. But that’s why my inner rebel thought it was a perfect way to describe my coaching approach. A high-speed train might get us to where we want to go faster, but a slowcoach allows space for adventure, sensory awareness, and spontaneity on the way.

Making time for slowness (if we want to choose it) allows space for depth. Slow coaching isn’t about forcing slowness but letting it when desired. Without the sense that by slowing down, we are making everything else more stressful. What do I want time to do more slowly if I choose?

What Would You Like To Waste Your Time On? | 48:08

When we go slower, we can explore more. We might see more. We might hear more.

Slowing down allows us to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel more of what is around us. It helps us listen to what is being said, not what we anticipate is being said.

We only notice what we already understand if we skim a book. We will overlook new concepts if our brains don’t recognise the patterns and we don’t give ourselves time to learn. It’s the same if we listen to audio or watch a video at high-speed. This can be a helpful tool if needed. Time wasted can give rise to valuable memories, enjoyable experiences, and creative breakthroughs.

What do you want to waste time on today? What would happen if you chose to slow down and truly listen, play, create, watch, and enjoy? Where is the space FOR that more meaningful stuff?

What’s The Rush? Enter The Sanctuary of Slowness | 50:47

Since it first came to life in 2014, The Haven has been my playground of slow growth. In the early days, I followed membership models and training blueprints. But over the years, it’s become so much more than that. It’s a sanctuary of rhythm and slowness.

Not somewhere to rush to or tear through to find instant solutions to significant challenges. But with its labyrinth of cobbled streets, candle-lit corridors, and secret doors to other worlds, it’s an invitation to slow down. Return from the hectic world of doing to a land of being. A land of becoming. Of wondering and wandering.

The Book Club is all part of that. Fancy joining me there? Learn more here.

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