Studies now show the health benefits of slow living. Not surprising after all- since we know that fast food is terrible for us and slow cooking is making a huge come-back. Home cooked meals mean more health benefits, fresher ingredients, and more time connecting around the table. It seems we are all better off with slowing down. Slow living has brought a wealth of wisdom to me over these last few years. I used to be a person that prided herself on "multi-tasking." I guess I esteemed it as some kind of "super power>" I felt sharp, smart, and able. The problem of living like this is it's addicting and wears out your energy (adrenals) and is not good for your health.
Many of us who have been through "health journeys to healing" realize that all the societal rushing around and impatience on roadways and grocery stores etc,. takes a toll on both the people we love and our own mental and spiritual growth/health. Thankfully, I am wiser these days. I slow down often and take my time to enjoy the little moments which are one of life's little hidden treasures. I feel the nervous energy of others and chuckle because I remember being that way myself. I was always drained and tired but up for the next adventure. Eventually all adventures stopped. My health plummeted. I was forced to re-examine life and what was important to me - truly. Health was one of the things I decided was most important to me and I made changes. I switched around some much needed priorities.
photo taken by Michelle Touchstone
There's an old proverb that says "Once she stopped rushing through life, she was amazed at how much more life she had time for." It's so true. Once I learned to say "no" to other peoples demands or "no" to feeling like I was "missing out" on something- I started apologizing less and letting go of the guilt of not always "doing something". Rushing and the phrase "hurry-up"- often left my lips. I have worked hard on letting that strange feeling die by the wayside and I am much more happy! I have never been around a person that was pleasant while rushing or rushing others. Have you?
So, while I normally used to say I didn't have time for certain things, I realize now that I do have time to do what is the most rewarding. Finding that healthy space and peace spills over into all of my other relationships. When I take the time I need for myself first, I have more to give when I decide I want to give it. It's a choice instead of a guilt trip that I resent.
The benefits of slowing down on purpose. The health benefits of slower living is that it raises oxytocin and helps banish inflammation. It's something I learned many years ago from having an over active nervous system from chasing too many carrots, too much news, learned behavior, and societal expectations (especially in America where we are working all the time and never simply spending time being still- doing nothing. Artists will tell you that inspiration comes when they are relaxed. Many feel guilty just sitting still- as if its a crime not to have anywhere to be or go. It's like we lop it into the "lazy" category- when nothing is further from the truth. The human body needs what I call "fluff time". It's how our cells repair and catch up.
When constantly going from thing to thing or scrolling constantly on our phones and computers, our body sends out a chemical in the form of adrenaline. Adrenaline creates inflammation and fatigues eventually because our body has to deal with the massive dump of cortisol and adrenaline. We breathe shallow, raise our shoulders, purse lips together and tighten every muscle and enter into the state of fight - or - flight and don't even realize it. Wanting to control everything can also be at the core of this compulsion.
People often don't know why they are feeling so exhausted, crabby, short fused, anxious and depressed. It's because stress shoots out chemicals into our blood stream and eventually if not slowed down, our adrenals can't counter with the calm down hormones anymore. The body stops working to create "stasis" because it's burnt out. The body needs time to recover- daily.
Stress posing as a schedule.
Being stressed out and running from thing to thing masquerades as "important lists" and "important events." It may be ego, control, fear, insecurity or ignorance. Either way, cancer, adrenal fatigue, arthritis, anxiety, and depression begin as the body is too tired to fight or flight anymore.
Studies show more accidents happen when we are pressed for time, stressed and rushing, and in a state of going- going- going. Some people are rushing because they are addicted to the adrenaline and have a hard time breaking a habit that feels good temporarily- but makes the body crash later- sometimes in ways we don't see for many years.
Once realizing the unhealthy behavior, anyone can practice bringing the calm into everyday life. One will sleep better which helps the body to restore proper healthy function and boosts immune cells to ward off disease. When we rush everywhere we also miss out on the most important reason for living- enjoyment and connection.
Embracing the health benefits of "slow living" in a daily routine can help anyone enjoy better spiritual and mental health and connections. All can embrace the healthier habits of slow living at any age and no matter a persons disposition- with a little practice.
Embrace daily solitude. It can be 5 minutes or 5 hours. Slowing down is a beautiful stepping stone to seeing things a little bit differently, a bit more "reverently" if you will. When we slow down, we can see the world, and others in a way that reveals the intrinsic value of each moment. Slower living creates more healthy meaningful connections both with ourselves and the world at large. When embracing the joy of living more mindfully -it's like a living meditation of kindness. Other people pick up on that energy and it spreads like dominos! What a great thing to share. It's a wonderful gift!
Come on a mind scape with me (true story)
I was walking slowly along the uneven gnarled tree-rooted path, while the bumblebees seemed to greet me with a lovely deep buzz, in their slow southern style. Bumblebees don't seem to have a care in the world; they just hum along from flower to flower, taking their sweet o'l time- they can teach us a lot about slowing down and taking our time.
Drinking in my surroundings.
After walking the knotted wooded trail, I whistle to see if I can be included in the song of the forest. To my surprise, I hear a bird mimicking my silly whistle back to me! It's magical. I'm in love - with the wisdom of the woods.
Passing tall pines, I snap a few fresh needles off the lower branches so I can enjoy the tangy, lemon-piney taste of the Eastern Hemlock Trees. I enjoy making tea with its pine needles sometimes (they have Vitamin C too)! My eyes focus on a tree trunk with large reddish raised bark resembling cracked dinosaur skin. It's an Eastern Red Cedar tree that shoots up like a skyscraper and forms a protective canopy over my head. I can see the blue sky behind the tall branches as I twirl around and look up. It's nice to hear the stillness and yet all is not so still!
[Wild Yam Pictures Above]
My ears become more attuned to the subtle nuances of each cracking branch and forest sound. I hear a rustle, then follow the sound of moving leaves down to my right. My eyes take a bit of time to focus through all the brown and green patterns of the woods. My eyesight adjusts and I catch a little glimpse of a chipmunk dashing across the forest floor into a hollowed-out rotten log. He's as fast as lightning but his black lines are a dead giveaway and I spot him trying to hide.
As I move closer to the waters edge I hear the croaking of frogs and see small black snakes slither into the stream as turtles pop their heads back down into the water. To my surprise I have just discovered that crawdads seem to fly from the shore into the water when I step closer! How they do that - I have no idea but definitely looking forward to discovering their trick soon!
[White blue-eyed grass]
For many it's just a walk in the woods- to me- it's a panacea.
I stumble upon prints from deer, birds, and others of the deep forest. I feel honored to share the space with such beauty, remembering I am but a guest, careful of my surroundings yet filled with perfect peace. Nothing is rushing around me -not even the squirrels. Everything has its rhythm. It's us humans that are out of sync. We need to find our rhythm again.
[Witch Hazel Shrub Plant]
I take in a deep long breath and let it out just as easily. A nice gentle warm wind blows over my face. I hear the sound of the breeze moving past the leaves high up in the tree tops. The swishing in the trees almost sounds like the rushing of water. I take in all the beauty no longer walking, just standing still under an oak enjoying the forest. This is "living" to me.
I catch a glimpse of a Witch Hazel Tree (a very helpful astringent for cuts and bites) and many other plants that are used for healing. Trillium, Plantain, Self heal, Solomons Seal, Nettle, Cleaver, Dead Nettle, Wintergreen. I have learned so much and yet have so much more to learn! It's never ending- and that is fine by me. I have the time and I intend to spend it slowly and mindfully. How about you?
Here are a few more photos from my slow enjoyable hike
So, this Spring I will be soaking up the forest and seeking my daily balance. I am so grateful and feel so blessed that I can go into nature and be calm while learning the wisdom of being still. I have embraced the value of "slow living" and taking my time, and while I am often going solo (or with my husband of friends) I am reminded to refrain from the rush to get to the "top". I enjoy taking my time getting to the destination because it's the journey in between that has the wisdom in it.
So, next time you feel like passing all the cars and pushing ahead at the grocery store, ask yourself- why am I rushing? What am I missing that I feel the need to rush? Then enjoy a slower pace and watch the world from a new perspective. It could be the very thing wisdom is wanting to gift you.
[Plantago Major (Plantain)]
[Top False Solomons Seal - Bottom Smooth Solomons Seal]
all photos copyright by Michelle Touchstone