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The Importance of Slowing Down



Have you ever noticed how anxiously people wait for the traffic lights to turn green- not wanting to waste a single minute - speeding to their next destination? It’s almost like a race: whoever is the fastest wins the race. Well, how different is this from what we see in today’s classrooms? Students burn themselves out as they strive for perfection. We are all in the constant race to be better than the other. However, research indicates that being overly busy is associated with an increased stress and decreased self-esteem (Jodi Clarke, 2021). This is quite concerning as it may trigger more serious mental health disorders such as anxiety disorders, depression, and substance use in the future. Surprisingly, slowing down is actually a faster way to succeed. Here’s why…


What is slowing down?

Slow living is a mindset wherein you curate a more meaningful and conscious lifestyle that’s in line with your priorities. This could include eating mindfully or less multitasking (Bhuee, 2021).


The benefits of slowing down


  1. You gain clarity about your priorities: You can take some time to reflect on your feelings and thoughts to learn more about what truly matters to you - the people and goals that we value the most.

  2. Decision-Making: It allows us to be more intentional and rational when making decisions and executing our plans.

  3. Quality over Quantity: “Doing more” does not always mean “doing what’s best”. Slowing down allows us to invest our time, resources and energy into the important goals resulting in a better-quality output (Cunff, 2021).

  4. Sustainability: Consistent but small efforts are more effective and durable than putting a lot of effort all the time. This may lead to burnout faster. To maintain our energy, we need some time to recharge through self-care and reflection. One way would be to set realistic goals and expectations rather than highly ambitious and therefore unattainable (Cunff, 2021).

  5. Leads to greater happiness: Several studies suggest that our brain has a negative bias - we are more likely to remember negative experiences over positive experiences (Caren, 2018). So, it’s essential to create time to display gratitude in any way possible. Luckily, slowing down allows us to appreciate the little things around us (e.g nature, people, our bodies, etc.), leading to an increase in happiness.

Better brain function: Sleeping is an important part of relaxing and recharging our bodies. Research by the US military indicated that losing just one hour of sleep per night for a week can cause a level of cognitive degradation equivalent to a 0.10 blood alcohol level (Williams , 2021). Furthermore, sleeping has shown to improve memory recall.


How to slow down


  1. Mindfulness Meditation: A meta-analysis demonstrated that mindfulness-based therapy can improvement in anxiety and depression symptoms (Khoury et al., 2013).

  2. Connecting with nature: Research states that soil contains a type of bacteria that activates brain cells that produce serotonin (an excitatory neurotransmitter) (Davis, n.d.) Hence, being physically connected with nature can result in an improved mood. (Lowry et al., 2007).

  3. ​​Slow Down Your Thoughts​: Daily journaling or speaking to process your thoughts and feelings consciously.

  4. Deep Breathing: Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is the counterbalance to the sympathetic nervous system (the fight and flight response), allowing us to rest and perform basic functions like digestion.

  5. Eat slower and mindfully: Eating food quickly leads to overeating which can have consequences such as low mood, fatigue and, in worst cases, obesity. However, we can control our diet by being mindful of what we eat. Moreover, we live in a world of quick fixes and fast food, causing us to forget about the importance of a well-cooked authentic meal. A great way to do this is to appreciate the flavors and texture of the food - it makes the food taste more nutritious!

  6. Practice silence: In a world full of noises everywhere (Tik Tok, traffic, etc), it’s crucial to schedule time to connect with ourselves in complete silence. It provides clarity and improves self-esteem.


Written by: Saniya Nagpal

Year III, Honors Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour

McMaster University


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References:

  1. Bhuee, J. (2021, March 17). What is slow living? Slow Simple Sunday. Retrieved February 24, 2022, from https://www.slowsimplesunday.com/blogs/how-to-start-living-slower/what-is-slow-living

  2. Caren, A. (2018, November 1). Why we often remember the bad better than the good. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2018/11/01/why-we-often-remember-bad-better-than-good/

  3. Cunff, A.-L. L. (2021, June 24). An ode to slowness: The benefits of slowing down. Ness Labs. from https://nesslabs.com/the-benefits-of-slowing-down

  4. Davis, T. (n.d.). Slowing down: 14 science-based ways to enjoy life. The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. https://www.berkeleywellbeing.com/slow-down.html

  5. Jodi Clarke, M. A. (2021, October 7). If you're always over-scheduled, find out why you need to slow down. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-the-glorification-of-busyness-impacts-our-well-being-4175360#:~:text=Being%20overly%20busy%20and%20exhausted,depression%2C%20and%20substance%20use%20disorders.

  6. Williams , R. (2021, January 4). The value of slowing down and doing nothing. Ray Williams. https://raywilliams.ca/value-slowing-nothing

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