If we could just slow down our lives, they would be a whole lot better.
Speaker and journalist Carl Honoré, the author of “In Praise of Slow” and three other books defining and advocating for the "Slow Movement," believes we should have more focus on living each moment to the fullest and putting quality before quantity in many aspects of life.
Hoda Kotb and guest host Maria Shriver, who was filling in for Jenna Bush Hager on her maternity leave, dedicated Friday's edition of "Hoda and Jenna" to talking about the beneficial effects of slowing it down.
"We don't have a culture that just says it's OK to rest in this moment,'' Maria said. "It's so good for your entire health."
"I felt this a little on my maternity leave," Hoda said. "You don't really feel anything when you're running. You're just running. And then all of a sudden, when you hit the brakes and stop, life hits you with this major wave."
In coaching everyone from parents to executives about the movement, Honoré believes our obsession with speed “has reached the point of absurdity” to where we’re tired all the time from the daily hustle, and by slowing down we can live a fuller life.
"Slow is a mindset," Honoré said on TODAY Friday. "It's about quality over quantity, it's about being present, in the moment. Ultimately, it's about doing everything not as fast as possible, but as well as possible."
Aspects of modern life like the instant gratification of online shopping and the hyper speed of social media contribute to burnout, a diagnosable condition that includes exhaustion, negative feelings and reduced effectiveness.
Studies have shown that multitasking, which has become a regular part of life for millions of people, leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity. Only 2.5% of the population processes tasks simultaneously, and those who attempt it make 50% more error.
Honoré embraced slow living himself when he felt he was racing through life after admiring a book of one-minute bedtime stories for kids.
"In the moment we feel like we have to say yes to everything, so we're cramming our schedules with things that are actually not that important,'' he said. "But 2-3 weeks later, when we look back at the things we possibly could not have said no to, we realize that we've forgotten them - they weren't really that important. And sometimes taking that bigger view, that longer perspective allows us to say no, to prioritize."
Rather than spending his day racing against the clock, Honoré focuses on doing fewer things with more care and attention.
“I feel so much more alive now,’’ he said on his website.
Why is espousing the "Slow Movement" beneficial? Dolly Chugh, a psychologist and NYU professor, gave TODAY three reasons why it's important to slow down.
- Our minds need it. Too much fast and automatic thinking means not enough deliberative thinking.
- Our bodies need it. Just like successful athletes, we can't compete at full speed all the time.
- Our loved ones need it. They made only see us being constantly busy and view that in a negative light.
Chronic stress also accelerates the aging process, so slowing down, exercising regularly and maintaining a strong social network can reduce the effects, Chugh said.
Honoré also espouses the movement in the workplace, noting that “forward-thinking companies” have allowed more employees to work at their own pace and enjoy quiet spaces for meditation, mindfulness or a quick rejuvenating nap.
Slowing things down can also help children thrive in a world where parents are often constantly pushed them to do their absolute best in everything.
How to follow slow living
- Turn off all screens for a month.
- Only drive to destinations that are at least two miles away.
- Have a family meal together at least once a day.
- Parents make time for a relaxing ritual with their children.
Fear is our biggest obstacle to living a slower life.
Confronting questions like, “Who am I?” and “What kind of life am I leading?” can be uncomfortable for many. But the alternative of living a life consumed with speed actually leaves us feeling more tired and unfulfilled. When we're caught up in a fast-paced life, we can avoid problems rather than quietening our minds to be alone with our thoughts and face the worries, Honoré believes.
While he knows it’s far-fetched to believe the world will ever totally slow down, he does believe progress can be made toward living a more mindful life.
“We won’t change the world, or make it slow, by next year," he said on his website. “It will take time. The slow revolution will be slow. But I believe it will happen.”