Slowing down allows you to make better decisions, connect with people more deeply, and have more meaningful experiences, all while improving your mental health and avoiding burnout. Although this mindfulness practice does not get rid of your to-do list, it can lessen the urgency and help you remember what is most important to enjoy right now.
Today’s society often prioritizes and rewards speed and hustle. Putting in 60 hours a week at work, neglecting rest or play, and moving from one thing to the next is seen as productive and admirable by some. We rush through steps to get to the next level. We move fast to be able to get where we think we should be in education, jobs, and even some of life’s most precious moments, constantly striving toward what comes next. More and more studies are indicating that our methods of moving fast are ultimately not in service to our best interests. We know now that performance is not always enhanced by speed and in fact, we could be doing ourselves great harm by working against our natural biology and physiology. Enhance your Response Agility Skills by taking Keen Alignment's Workshop!
Try this Brain Hack: Pay Attention To Your Fears!
It might feel like anxiety or anger. You might say to yourself “I’m an idiot.” You might find yourself complaining to a friend, coworker or spouse. It shows up in different ways, but fear is usually the thing stealing your peace of mind. PAY ATTENTION, and then get curious. Ask yourself, what am I really afraid of? Be honest with yourself, and please don’t judge it. Because the second you say it out loud (or journal it if you prefer) it loses its power. Those fears pick up speed and multiply when they stay swirling around in your subconscious mind.
Why do we need to prioritize slowing down?
One of the most noteworthy reasons to slow down is that our brains cannot sustain functioning at high speed and intensity due to the stress it puts on our nervous system. We aren’t wired for it. In fact, it is maladaptive to continue to push ourselves to operate under such conditions. To break it down simply, most human beings’ brains communicate directly with their nervous systems. There is this special part of our brains specifically adapted to let us know when it’s time to go fast (fight or flee) called the amygdala. CEO of KeenAlignment, Margaret Graziano addresses this meaningfully in her book Ignite Culture. Graziano writes,
“The amygdala is part of the brain that manages shortcuts and sets in motion a series of events that trigger the production of adrenaline and cortisol. Unfortunately, in today’s rushed, multitasking world, our brain often gets confused [about what is a true threat]. It senses anxiety from the daily juggling act and engages the amygdala when it’s not needed. Adrenaline and cortisol hormones rush in, and the templates come into play—in the form of habituated patterns—even when there’s no real threat. We keep rushing and trying to navigate stressful meetings and tight deadlines. Instead of helping us, these powerful evolutionary mechanisms end up distracting us, clouding our judgment, and causing us to take inappropriate actions.”
We spend a lot of time as humans activating our sympathetic nervous system and our stress response when it is not truly necessary and we typically don’t slow down enough to activate our parasympathetic nervous system. What does this mean? The parasympathetic nervous system affects the same body functions as the sympathetic nervous system (the amygdala and stress response of fight or flight) but in a completely different way. It works to slow down certain responses and bring about a state of calm to the body, allowing it to rest, relax, and repair itself. The primary function of the parasympathetic nervous system is to maintain long-term health and a healthy balance across all of the body’s functions. Parasympathetic responses include an increase in digestive enzymes, decreased heart rate, constriction of bronchial tubes in the lungs, and more relaxed muscles.
Better Balance for All of Us
Both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are vital to our health and survival. However, for our bodies to live with optimal health and proper function for as long as possible, there must be a balance between the two. If there is a miscommunication between your brain and the impulses that promote sympathetic responses (like Graziano mentions in her book and addresses in her programs), your body will be functioning in fight or flight mode far too often and for far too long, and this can have negative consequences on your overall health. Our society often demands so much of our attention and causes us so much stress that slowing down to do activities that activate the parasympathetic nervous system does not come naturally to most of us.
At KeenAlignment, all of our programs take into consideration the entirety of the human experience with the ultimate noble cause of liberating the human spirit at work. Margaret Graziano’s book Ignite Culture is full of invaluable information that speaks to our current pitfalls in organizations and how slowing down is a surefire method to begin to see improvement. You can order her book here. In addition, many of our leadership and development programs include tangible methods for slowing down and retraining our brains to operate with increased balance.
Slowing down may seem counterproductive, but research shows it actually increases our brain’s ability to prioritize and focus with greater presence. For techniques for slowing down, increasing your capacity to healthily handle stress, and opportunities to develop your leadership abilities visit keenalignment.com to book a qualifying call today.