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The Slow Life; How to Pause, Breathe and Enhance Your Wellbeing


Close up of a sunflower in a sunflower field with a backdrop of the setting sun and pink skies indicating the last days of summer.

Summer leads us into fall in an unrelenting march, the narrowing daylight hours quickening their pace. The perception of time, slipping through our fingers, can be overwhelming. How can we slow down the clock and decrease our stress? By living the slow life, immersed in every moment, every second, every minute, hour by hour, day by day. This slow-motion living is intentional, thoughtful, focused, and engaging. Pause with us this season to decelerate, enrich your life, and enhance your wellbeing. Try it with us: be present, pause, connect, breathe, and make it a ritual.


BE PRESENT

We spend so much of the present on autopilot, caught up in a mode of mindless doing; checking off boxes throughout the day with our heads far away, reliving the past or daydreaming of the future. These thoughts serve a purpose–revisiting the past allows us to learn from it, and envisioning the future allows us to plan for it–but they can also distract our consciousness from living in the moment and being mindful as we go about our day, leaving us with the perception that time is rushing by. Being present slows down the construct of time. This intentional focus can lend us the mental clarity to make the best decisions in the moment. Opening up our awareness (a bit like wearing 3D glasses) intensifies the experience of living.


Tips for being present: Take a few moments to become aware of your current state. Notice any physical sensations, thoughts, or emotions without judgment. Awaken your senses and interact with your surroundings. What does it feel like to be in your body? What do you see, feel, hear and smell? What does it feel like to be alive in this moment, right here, right now?


PAUSE

Taking small pauses (breaks) throughout the day, by removing yourself from activities you're immersed in (such as work or chores), is an effective way to break up "autopilot" monotony, tedium and relieve mental and physical fatigue. If you've been sitting, get up and do a series of mindful movements such as light stretches, or go for a brief walk; make yourself a relaxing, hydrating beverage. If you've been toiling all day, have a seat, rehydrate, eat a snack, and practice calming breath work.


Connect

Check in with your body during your pause. Conduct a body scan by sitting in an upright, relaxed position with your feet firmly planted on the ground. As you remain still, breathing evenly and calmly, start to scan (connect with) your body from your toes to the top of your head, section by section at a steady pace, blocking out all external stimuli. If you're not familiar with this mindfulness technique, simply ask yourself a series of questions such as: "How am I doing? What does my body need right now? Am I hungry, stressed, frustrated, or angry? Do my feet hurt? Is my neck sore? Are my eyes strained?" and so on. Dedicate your pause time to address your needs.


BREATHE

Breath work is a practice that involves conscious control of your breath to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and enhance mental and physical well-being. Some techniques can increase energy and focus (5-3-3 method, for example), while others can slow your heart rate and reduce stress levels. Select your technique after you've established your body's needs. Some popular breath work exercises for relaxation and stress-relief include:

  1. 4-7-8 method: promotes deep relaxation, calms nerves, and aids in sleep. Sit upright or cross-legged in a relaxed position and follow these steps*:

  2. Inhale deeply through your nose for 4 seconds

  3. Hold your breath for 7 seconds

  4. Exhale vigorously through your mouth for 8 seconds

  5. Repeat this process several times until you begin to feel relaxed

  6. Diaphragmatic Breath: strengthens diaphragm, improves breathing by encouraging full oxygen exchange, and regulates heartbeat and blood pressure. Sit upright in a relaxed position or lie on your back with your knees bent and follow these steps*:

  7. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen

  8. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise as you fill your lungs

  9. Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth, allowing your abdomen to fall

  10. Repeat this deep belly breathing for a few minutes to establish a rhythm

  11. Box Breathing: ideal for stressful situations such as anxiety or panic attacks, which trigger the sympathetic nervous system responsible for 'fight, freeze, flight' response and the subsequent production of cortisol (stress hormone). Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system's 'rest & digest' mode, which results in a calming effect. Sit upright or cross-legged in a relaxed position and follow these steps*:

  12. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4

  13. Hold your breath for a count of 4

  14. Exhale through your mouth for a count of 4

  15. Hold your breath for a count of 4

  16. Repeat this pattern for several minutes


MAKE IT A RITUAL

Create a repeatable ritual or series of rituals that you can practice with ease at various intervals throughout your day. Decide on the purpose of your pause–is it for stress-relief, energy, pain management, etc.?–set your intention and create a ritual to support it.

  • A 3-minute calming pause ritual might include breath work, a glass of water and some soothing music.

  • A 5-minute stress-reduction pause ritual might include a mood-enhancing beverage, a neck massage, box breathing, and aromatherapy.

  • A 15-minute re-energizing pause ritual might include a quick walk around the work environment or outdoors to get your blood circulating, a light snack, inner & outer hydration, and an upbeat playlist.


TIPS for creating a crave-worthy ritual:

  1. Invest in wellness tools like small massagers that you can keep by your desk or workplace environment. Include a massage oil & give yourself a neck, forearm or head massage on command.

  2. Make an uplifting or relaxing playlist of music or sounds, like singing bowls, and listen during your pause.

  3. Stock up on some healthy antioxidant snacks and brain food to reenergize your body & mind.

  4. Keep a relaxing aroma handy, like lavender or rose (whatever is relaxing to you), and do some breath work to calm or energize your body.

  5. Incorporate beauty. Look at something beautiful, like nature, artwork or an image on your phone. This stimulates happy neurotransmitters in the brain.

  6. Keep a journal to write down your intentions and observations and indulge your creativity. Being creative reduces stress levels.

  7. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink water or mood-enhancing, refreshing beverages throughout the day. Hydrate your skin. Splash some water on your face or spritz a hydrating floral water.

Once you have your rituals down, you'll be able to maximize every second of your break time and amplify the benefits of taking a pause, allowing you to be present, take a breath and decelerate the pace of time. Enjoy the slow life.


*Consult with your doctor about breath work if you are experiencing respiratory or other health issues prior to engaging in these breathing techniques.

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