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“Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast”: 7 Ways to Slow Down More in Life


Have you ever been shocked at how fast time passes? Of course, you have, since you’re human and it sometimes feels like everyone is fighting for your time. Then, you’ll probably agree with me when I say that it sucks that everything always seems to fly by in a flash. But then, how do you actually slow down?

It’s important to realize that you can only control your own actions in this world. While the world around you probably won’t slow down, there are some great tactics that can help you slow down more and find peace with the fast pace of the world.

In this article, I want to highlight some of the best ways to slow down, backed by studies and examples. After reading this article, you won’t be able to turn the rest of the world into slow-motion like they do in The Matrix. But you’ll definitely know how to slow down yourself, without feeling like the world is running you down the drain.

This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast

In the show Modern Family, the father of the household urges his kids to remember that “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast”. I later learned that this adage found its roots in the US military, which makes sense.

The point is that slowing down is not necessarily something negative. People often think that in order to be productive (and successful), you have to be fast.

people walking cars slow motion

What most people don’t realize is that slowing down doesn’t have to impact your personal goals in life. In fact, slowing down in life can help you value and appreciate your actions so much more.

That’s not to say that a fast-paced life is equal to an unhappy life. It means that learning to slow down in your life is just a matter of making small choices that benefit your mental health. This doesn’t have to come at the cost of your productivity.

Studies show the benefits of slowing down

If you think I’m just making this up for the sake of a nice article, you’d be wrong. There are numerous studies that suggest that slowing down is beneficial, in more than one way.

Why smartphones make it more difficult to slow down

Have you noticed how, whenever they have an idle minute, people are glued to their smartphones? Whether you’re waiting in line for the cashier, or you’re filling up your car with gas, most people fill this time with the addictive behavior of scrolling through news headlines or social media feeds.

However, a nasty trait of these apps is that there’s always something new at the top of your feed. This makes it feel like time is flying by and you just have to keep up in order to stay relevant.

Tech companies use our cognitive weaknesses as human beings to keep us on their platforms for as long as possible. I’m not trying to blame this problem entirely on Facebook, Instagram or Tik Tok, but all these companies are very aware of how to best exploit your FOMO.

These platforms all benefit from your social media addiction, but you don’t. This is just one example of how smartphones are making it harder for us to slow down.

This small study of 180 university students found that people who spent more time on highly visual social media are more likely to experience envy. For those who are wondering what highly visual social media means, think of Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

social media

Rushed decisions lead to regret more often

You’ve probably heard this common phrase before: “waste makes waste”. It means that if you rush things, you’re more likely to make a mistake that leads to a waste of time, resources, or relationships.

This was the topic of a fascinating study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. This study tricked people into making rushed decisions and tested whether or not they felt regretful about their choices. The study found that rushed decisions lead to regret more often.

Perhaps even more interesting: the people who rushed their decision and turned out to be right were still more likely to experience regret. And as we all know, regret is not something that makes us happier. In fact, repetitive feelings of regret are linked to anxiety and depression disorders. This study elegantly shows why it’s important to slow down more when making decisions.

Exercising more slowly still gives you all the benefits

We recently published an article discussing the positive relationship between exercising and happiness. This article discusses your exercise routine doesn’t have to be super intensive for it to be effective.

n their 2018 review, Zhanjia Zhang and Weiyun Chen analyzed the results of 23 studies published between 1980 and 2017 focusing on the relationship between exercise and happiness.

They found that there is a significant increase in happiness even if you just exercise 1 day a week and that even 10 minutes may be enough to make you happier.

But what if you miss a day? You have to make up for that lost time in the gym by going pedal to the metal, right?

No. There is no point in over-training once a month, hoping that it will make up for all the gym sessions you skipped. As professor Michael Gleeson from Loughborough University explains, too strenuous exercise can weaken immune resistance instead of strengthening it.

These studies show why it can even be beneficial to slow down even during exercise.

7 ways to slow down more in your life

Now that we know about the negative side effects of constantly living on the edge of burnout and anxiety, you surely want to know how to slow down more in your life.

I’ve compiled some of the best tips that I’ve found the most helpful.

This first one is painfully simple and obvious.

1. Cut back on your social media time

Social media definitely has its place in today’s society, but you’ll find it hard to slow down when you fill every free minute with a quick pick at your Instagram.

The best gift you can give yourself is to log off for a while. While it may sound drastic, what’s keeping you from deleting your accounts altogether? Is it really so important to be active on these social media platforms?

If you can’t do that for some reason, then use the mute function and unfollow features that don’t add any value to your life and curate yourself a feed that lifts you up instead of bringing you down.

2. Keep a daily journal

Journaling may not be for everybody, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an incredibly powerful habit. There are so many benefits to journaling, I won’t be able to fit them all in a single post, let alone this one.

There are a couple of benefits of journaling that will help you slow down more in life:

  • Journaling is one of the most peaceful and introspective activities out there, meaning that you won’t be distracted.
  • It helps you put your mind at ease and stops the thousands of thoughts from ricocheting in your brain.
  • Journaling makes you more self-aware, which helps you find peace in your life.

If you want to read about more benefits of journaling, head on over to our complete section on journaling!

woman journaling in diary

3. Try something new

I’ve been journaling for 9 years by now, and I’ve noticed something funny along the way. Every time I think to myself “Damn, the time has really flown by!” it’s when I’ve been stuck in a routine.

You can stop this from happening by simply breaking out of your routine every once in a while. Doing so will help you realize there’s more to life than whatever you’re already doing, and it helps you appreciate the time you have more.

If you can’t think of anything new to try, here is an article that contains dozens of new things to try.

4. Dont multitask

They say that men can’t multitask. There’s even a study claiming that this is because men need more brainpower when switching between tasks.

While I refuse to comment on this statement, I do know for a fact that multitasking is overrated. Multitasking is one of the most surefire ways to rush things. Instead of taking the time to do one thing right, you’re cutting your resources and hoping that the outcome will still be desirable for all your tasks.

This is a bad idea, and William R. Klemm tends to agree with me. William is a senior professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University and wrote about the perils of multitasking here.

In short:

  • Multitasking is stressful.
  • Your IQ can drop 10 points when you’re multitasking.
  • Multitasking is addictive.
  • Constant switching between tasks creates a distractible state of never being fully present.

That last bullet point perfectly brings me back to the topic of this article. If you want to slow down more in life – a.k.a. be more present – you need to stop your multitasking habit.

How can you do this?

  • Use the “mute” function on your smartphone.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “No” to someone that requires your attention.
  • If you need to work on your computer, refrain from opening up YouTube, Facebook or your favorite news site on another monitor.
  • Understand that you do not have to be accessible to everyone at every instant.

5. Block time in your calendar for yourself

Back when I still worked as an engineer, I had a colleague that I could never seem to get into a meeting room. No matter what I tried, he always pointed at his Outlook Calendar and said to me: “just find an empty slot and I’ll join your meeting”.

I would have had an easier time robbing a bank because his Calendar was always filled to the brim with appointments.

A couple of weeks before I left my job, I walked out of another meeting and saw that same colleague solving a Rubik’s cube in his office. But when I had asked him beforehand to join my meeting, he’d said he was too busy!

What he didn’t tell me was that these so-called “appointments” were just blocks of time scheduled for himself. People that tried to get him to enter a meeting couldn’t because his calendar didn’t allow for overlapping meetings.

While this wasn’t a life-changing moment for me, it did show me how slowing down can be as simple as just blocking time in your calendar for yourself.

6. Respect your work-life boundaries

Here’s another work-related one: if you want to slow down in life, you have to respect your work-life boundaries.

If you’re like most people, your job is not your life’s purpose. This means that your happiest moments are outside office hours.

If you get paid to work 40 hours a week, but you still work an extra 2 hours every day, that means that you’ll have 10 fewer hours to do the things you actually enjoy doing most. As a result, you’ll find yourself more likely to rush the things that bring you the most happiness.

You could argue that those are exactly the things that you want to slow down in your life!

7. Try to be 5-minutes early to your appointments

It’s hard to slow down in your life when you’re always running late.

That’s why another painfully simple way to slow down more is to actually show up early at your appointments. Some people take pride in showing up right on time or actually arriving “fashionably late”. The reason being that being early is an inefficient use of your time.

But if you want to slow down in your life, try getting to your appointments 5 minutes early.

If you’re wondering what you can do in those 5 minutes to make the most use of your time, you’re missing the point. You should simply take a breath, go for a short walk, or just watch people around you rush by while scrolling through their social media feeds.

That’s when you’ll really be able to appreciate how slow time can move, and how freeing this experience can be!

Wrapping up

Slowing down may sound like the antonym of living a fast-paced and efficient life. But that’s not actually the case, just like the US military says “slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. By learning how to slow down in your life, you’ll live with less stress and anxiety. But even more important, you’ll be better equipped to enjoy each and every happy moment of your life without feeling rushed.

What do you think? Do you want to share your own helpful tip for slowing down in your life? Or did I miss something that others need to know? I’d love to read about it in the comments below!

Hugo
Founder of Tracking Happiness

Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 7 years.

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