8 Ways to Slow Down

8 Ways to Slow Down

The Italians have got many things right- they’ve perfected the art of food, they are known for their art, their culture and there is even the phrase Italian lover for a reason. One thing that most Italians know how to do well is the phrase “La dolce far niente”– translated as “the art of doing nothing.” Europe just knows how to do it. In many countries in Europe, people sit on patios drinking espresso or have a nice glass of wine in the middle of the day. Yes, the middle of the day. Why is this not common in North America?! Well, for one I guess it’s the shitty weather. But seriously, I think if everyone took a little siesta break offices would be more productive and the world would be a better place.

In such a busy and chaotic world like this one, it’s important to take time to slow down. With our computers constantly on, the buzz of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the whirlwind of looking your best, making lots of money, learning more, being better than others, and getting better grades– life can be a constant busy struggle for some. This can lead to anxiety, depression, and even trigger mental illness! La Dolce far niente is the opposite of all this. It’s about unplugging, slowing down, and taking in the experience of life (smelling the roses!). I’m not sure about you- but the more I look at apps like Facebook and Instagram, I want to have more, more and more– it’s neverending! More money, more success, more beauty (those IG models, though! WTF am I right?) The world isn’t supposed to be like this! Life definitely has more to offer. So I suggest- unplugging and plug yourself into some of these meditative, relaxing life experiences instead of going on your computer.

Is it just me- or after wasting so much time looking at other people’s lives on Instagram or Facebook, you start to feel a little bit shitty about your life. That isn’t good. That feeling is not a feeling we should be experiencing. We should compete with ourselves and only ourselves for “living my best life“, a popular Instagram hashtag. Such bullshit. Honestly- I’m sick of people posting that! Because no one knows what’s going on behind a photo! We need to stop deceiving ourselves into thinking this culture of competitiveness and more more more is a good thing!

Most people have heard that studies show the benefits of yoga and meditation- activities that get you to slow down and relax. I think practising dolce far niente can be incorporated into our everyday activities. Another word that could mean the same (which is common here in the West) is practising mindfulness. 

If you want to have a little dolce far niente in your life, consider adding a few of these 10 activities into your life:

1. Go for a mindful Walk: 

No, not just any walk. It has to be one where you stop and smell the roses. Walk slowly, take in everything and listen to the birds, and all the sounds around you. A mindful walk in a forest or along the beach in bare feet will do you good.

2. Get coffee mindfully

Go to a cafe and order your favourite drink. Read a book or simply observe others around you. Enjoy the moment. Try not to go on your phone and distract yourself. Enjoy taking time out for yourself!

3. Go swimming

Studies have shown swimming is good for anxiety. The repetitive movements are calming and give you time to think (or not think) while you’re getting some cardio in. The controlled breathing and repetitive strokes make swimming a mindful and healthy activity.

4. Take a hike

Hiking is one of those activities which enables you to get out in nature and exercise at the same time. The Japanese have a word for walking in the forest translated as “Forest bathing”- studies have actually shown that going for walks in the forest is good for your overall physical & mental health!

5. Take a nap

La Dolce far niente isn’t always about doing something! Sometimes, it’s about doing less. Life can be overwhelming and stressful- sometimes you just need to take a nap. I think it’s important to know that its okay if you need to rest during the day. Our  culture here in the West is always about go go go, but that can be taxing on the body! Listen to your body- if it’s the weekend and you need a break- don’t feel bad about slowing down.

6. Stretch

Stretching increases flexibility, promotes blood flow, and improves posture. It is also extremely relaxing. Consider incorporating a few morning and evening stretches into your routine- you’ll notice it makes your mornings and evenings a little more relaxing and comfortable.

7. Listen to music

When’s the last time you sat on your bed, put your headphones on, and just listened to music? Music is very therapeutic, and studies have shown this as well! You could even go outside & get some sun while you’re at it.

8. Get some sun

Many people who live in the Western hemisphere are severely deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is so important for bone health, immune system support, brain health, cardiovascular health, and more!! The sun has been demonized as a cause of skin cancer, however, too little sun is not good for you either. Vitamin D activates important enzymes and is important for many chemical reactions in your body! Sitting in the sun for an hour or so (not too long!- too much sun is also dangerous) can make you feel great. I suggest incorporating this into your day whenever you can.

So, hopefully I’ve convinced you to slow down a bit!

Thank you for reading, and as always, love yourselves 🙂

-The Wild Psychologist

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Breathe- it’s good for you

Breathe- it’s good for you

Um.. okay. Right now you’re thinking “I already am breathing- that’s how I’m staying alive, dumb dumb.” Ok, I get it. We’re all breathing. However, I just found a study that emphasizes what we all already knew was good for us- the importance of breathing.

So what’s the deal then? Well, in this study breathing was found to modulate brain activity and mental function! What exactly does that mean? Well basically, according to this article by the Guardian, “The rhythm of breathing co-ordinates electrical activity across a network of brain regions associated with smell, memory, and emotions, and can enhance their functioning, according to a new study by researchers at Northwestern University. ”

Interestingly enough, breathing controls emotional recognition and memory recall, and this effect is seen more accurately during breathing IN than breathing out. Oh, and the “mode of delivery” is also important here- breathing through the nose showed these effects whereas when the participants in the study breathed through their mouths, their performance on both tasks declined markedly. So what does this tell us? Well, breathing is unconsciously controlled by the brainstem (the good ‘ol brain stem), and our breathing changes in response to emotional stimuli and mental effort, this suggests that our thought processes affect our breathing rate (which, we all knew anyways- I mean, who doesn’t notice the quickening of breath when we are mad or scared?).

This study is so important because it suggests that breathing can impact how well our brains work and our mental function. If breathing has some kind of effect on brain activity, it would make sense that by breathing fast when you’re scared or in a highly dangerous fight-for-your-life situation, this can optimise information processing in the brain so you can think and act appropriately and quickly. Put simply, breathing fast= more air. More air= a better working brain. This makes me think of running; when you run, you breathe faster so your muscles get more oxygen to meet the increased energy needs. This makes intuitive sense that the same would apply to your brain- a more strenuous task or situation (such as fight-or-flight) would require more oxygen to work better. As the article states, “When you breathe in… you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus,” says Zelano. “In a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster [and] as a result you’ll spend proportionally more time inhaling,” [This] could have a positive impact on brain function and result in faster response times to dangerous stimuli in the environment.”

Anyways, what I got from this was 1) Breathe through your nose damn it! and 2) breathe- it will keep you alive girlfriend.

Link to original study:

Zelano, C., et al. (2016). Nasal Respiration Entrains Human Limbic Oscillations and Modulates Cognitive Function. J. Neurosci., 6: 12448 –12467 [Abstract]