In today’s society, we’re wired to value speed and efficiency. Even when we’re not at work, most of us are busy tackling lengthy to-do lists of errands, household chores, and family obligations. While checking off each task, we’re also constantly checking our smartphones for emails, news updates, and social media notifications. It’s exhausting, isn’t it?
Studies show that our high-speed pace of life and addiction to technology are stressing us out. A 2017 Gallup poll found that 8 in 10 Americans regularly feel stressed, and that 41% feel they “lack the time they need to do things they want.” While smartphones aren’t the sole cause of our stress, they may be a part of it. A 2017 report by the American Psychological Association found that those who constantly check their smartphones (43% of Americans) reported higher stress levels than those who are less dependent on their electronic devices.
But disconnecting and slowing down can be a challenge if you’re not used to doing it. As with any habit, you need to prioritize the practice of “doing less” to make it part of your regular routine. Here are five tips for slowing down your life and enjoying it more.
1. Cut your screen time.
You don’t need to do a full “digital detox” to curb your smartphone use, but there are some tricks that will help you shift your focus from what’s happening on your device to what’s happening in your life. First, turn off notifications. Hearing those buzzes and pings actually triggers your brain cells to release pleasure-inducing dopamine, which makes it hard to avert your eyes. Also make it a point to ban your phone from mealtime so you can focus on conversation with family and friends, and do yourself a favor by powering down an hour before bed — you’ll sleep so much better.
2. Go outside.
Walk your dog. Read in the backyard. Bike on a nearby trail. Tons of studies have shown that spending more time in green spaces can slash your stress levels, and new research says it can actually improve your overall health by lowering your risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type II diabetes. Enjoying nature alone can serve as a form of meditation and help you clear your head, but you can also use this time to play outdoors with your kids or bond during a hiking adventure with your spouse.
3. Stop multitasking.
Not only does multitasking actually make you less productive, but it can also “overload” your brain and cause you to feel more stressed out, according to a 2017 study by Finnish researchers. So train yourself to focus on one thing at a time, whether you’re in the office or in your house. At work, keep your open Internet tabs to a minimum and physically check items off your to-do list to keep yourself on track. At home, create a space where you can do a stress-relieving activity like yoga or reading without the distraction of a TV, phone, or pet.
4. Do what makes you happy.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to take a culinary class, or you love swimming laps but can never seem to find the time to go to the pool. Whatever it is that inspires you to feel more energized or at peace, make time for it. Life is busy, but it will feel less hectic if you reserve time for the activities that fulfill you.
5. Start a gratitude journal.
It’s easy to let the negative in your life cloud out the positive, but researchers say that by focusing on your blessings you can improve your outlook — even when you’re feeling upset or overwhelmed. Try this out by logging the things you’re grateful for in a notebook once a week. You can write about anything, big or small: a stranger buying your coffee, petting a corgi in the park, catching up with an old friend, or seeing the big grin on your kid’s face after her dance recital. Slow down and appreciate the little things.