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Slow Down and Be Here Now

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Stress » Featured Article

By Rachel Fleischman, MSW, LCSW

Rachel Fleischman, MSW, LCSW

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today, today is a gift. That's why we call it the Present. ~Babatunde Olatunji

Studies have shown that Americans are more miserable now than ever. With the challenges that we face economically, it can feel as though we are just hanging on by a thread. This is not so. We all underestimate our need to slow down. If we are not careful, we live as if our schedules are our lives. At the end of the day, we haven’t necessarily been present to our own experience. Mary Pipher, psychologist says: "I have never seen people as rushed and distracted as we are now. We have become a nation of multitaskers."

I am incredibly fortunate to work with my counseling clients. Seeing such a rich and intimate side of people has helped me identify what elements are essential to slowing down and being here now. I feel incredibly privileged to have such a profound connection with people. However, the occasions when we genuinely need to rush are really a lot less frequent than we convince ourselves. The simple truth is that rushing has become a habit for many of us. And it has a negative effect on our mental, spiritual and physical health.

I have dished up a list of some things you can do today to easily slow down, enjoy one activity at a time, and live with more joy. Get ready to Be Here, Now.

  1. Slow Your Attention: Slowing down helps give our full-attention to what we are doing. Like full-attention Zen, slowing down can put us in the zone, or what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow ("Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”). Try walking more slowly. Pause before responding to questions. Speak more slowly.

  2. Practice Meditating: The first years of the twenty-first century have brought about new and surprising findings about how Buddhist contemplative training can affect the brain. The findings include unprecedented levels of brain activation in certain regions of the brain during meditation, evidence that meditation affects brain areas associated with positive emotions, as well as strong evidence the brain can be changed through prolonged and disciplined mental training. (J. Davidson, et al., Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation, Psychosomatic medicine 65.4 (2003): 564-70.)

  3. Initiate a Slowing-Down Contest: Find a friend and email each other some joyful things that you do each day. Your entry can include the simplest of joys (baking, watching a sunset, reading to a child)

  4. Read The Artist’s Way (or any good book) (Julia Cameron; 1992, 2002): Many folks have found this ground-breaking book very helpful in goal setting and connecting with their creative genius. I believe that we all are geniuses. We just need the time and space to let our amazing selves shine.

  5. Keep a Gratitude Journal: This is my absolute favorite new pastime. I love it especially when I am sulking in a moment of gloom and doom. I go to my gratitude journal and put in all the things that happened that I am grateful for, like having a seat on the bus, or getting a card in the mail, or enjoying a lovely meal. (nothing is too small). Start your gratitude journal today, and you will notice that you will attract more good things into your world.

  6. Check out these smell-the-roses sites, and take it slow…

  7. End the Day Slowly: Having an evening ritual is a balm to the nervous system. Before you go to sleep make sure that there is nothing stressful going on. Dimming the lights several hours before bedtime relaxes the mind, and intensifies the output of tryptophan, the sleep-inducing hormone. It’s very hard to enjoy a good-night’s sleep after watching the news. Find a slowness ritual that works for you; reading a book, talking to your partner or a friend, drawing, journaling.

  8. Play in Nature: This is a lovely way to help you slow down. To enjoy nature you have to be patient. Go to the beach, look at the sea and listen to the waves. Visit the county side, look at the greenery and listen to the birds chirping on the trees. Admire the blooming flowers in your garden and study the snail crawling on the ground. These are some of the delightful things that you can do to take it easy. And here in SF, there is nature all around us.

  9. Plant Something: Nourishing, feeding, harvesting a plant can lower blood pressure, strengthen the heart and increase the production of serotonin, the happy chemical. And flowers are beautiful.

  10. Have Faith: Studies have shown that spirituality affects health. In a study of 1,700 older adults, those attending church were half as likely to have elevated levels of IL-6 (hormones associated with increased incidence of disease)

Men, for the sake of getting a living, forget to live. ~Margaret Fuller

About the Author...

Rachel Fleischman, MSW, LCSW is a highly-skilled psychotherapist and dynamic workshop leader, based in San Francisco. Throughout her career, Rachel has pioneered the combination of traditional psychotherapy with movement, body awareness and spirituality.

Embodying 20 years of expertise, Rachel's body of work synthesizes a vast repertoire of movement and healing arts. Bringing her unique specialty of Body-Mind Psychotherapy, she unlocks issues held inside the body: like fear, anger, depression and creative blocks. She unlocks these issues through her proprietary work merging talk therapy with expressive arts (sometimes with breath & movement techniques) so that these issues don't become diseases in our bodies.

Rachel's fascination with spirituality, soul, mood disorders, and movement, has led her to develop a movement system called Dance Your Bliss™, a playful, powerful and highly original movement form which she leads across the globe.

Last Update: 11/3/2009

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