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Wellbeing / Health & wellbeing

The Slow Movement: Hurry up and slow down!

Our modern way of living assumes faster is better. Speed is the new king with our lives measured in bits and bytes, and dissected into micro-detail. Is it any wonder our health, performance and relationships begin to suffer? Is it time to slow down?

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We are not designed to go flat out around the clock. Life is meant to be a series of sprints interspersed with periods of rest and recovery. Our culture has conditioned us to think that slow is the enemy of achievement, yet as the Slow Movement is showing us, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Slow Movement

The Slow Movement is about slowing down and taking time to enjoy the things that give us pleasure. It’s about reconnecting with food, people and places, but it’s not anti-work or even anti-capitalist. In fact as Carl Honoré says in his book, In Praise of Slow, “The secret is balance. Instead of doing everything faster, do everything at the right speed. Sometimes fast. Sometimes slow. Sometimes somewhere in between”.

Founded by Carlo Petrini, the Slow Movement started in the late 80’s as a foodie fight back against the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant on Rome’s Spanish Steps. Slow Food gave birth to Slow Cities, or Cittaslow in Italian. Adhering to the Cittaslow Manifesto, these towns of 50,000 or less embody a way of life that supports slow living; where traditions and conventional ways of doing things are valued.

"Life is meant to be a series of sprints interspersed with periods of rest and recovery."

In Australia, the town of Goolwa was recently named our first Cittaslow, while Bloodwood Vineyard in Orange is now making slow wines. Annually, Canberra also hosts the Slow Festival in celebration of all things, well, slow.

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Lessons in slow from Kenya

When I was a middle distance runner in the 90’s, every year we’d get the opportunity to train with Kenyan athletes who would come out to Australia. Each year a different group of athletes would come, and amazingly each year a new champion would emerge from their ranks: the talent pool seemed endless. What did they know that we didn’t?

There’s a phrase in Swahili that sums it up, ‘hapa hapa’. It means slowly, slowly, and that’s exactly the way these high speed Kenyans took things. They listened to their bodies, training when they felt good and taking time off when they needed rest, often for weeks at a time. Looking back on my running career, I really believe I would have run much faster if I’d taken more notice of the Kenyans and trained hard and recovered even harder!

Eight slow down tips

Here are some great ways to apply the slow down philosophy:

1. Slow stretching

Try doing a gentle 5 to 10 minute stretching routine before going to bed. Slow your breathing and your heart rate.

2. Slow walking

Emulate my dog, Cougar. Stop and sniff absolutely everything!

3. Slow weekends

Don’t race around trying to see and please everyone. Try shifting back a few gears and getting rid of the weekend to-do list.

4. Slow mini-breaks

Get away for a three day mini-break, but avoid scheduling every waking hour with sightseeing.

5. Slow food

Copy the Italians with a three to five course meal that takes a few hours to get through, washed down with a couple of glasses of hearty vino.

6. Slow gardening

Just stop and smell the roses! Potter in the garden and take stock of the beautiful smells and plants.

7. Slow sex

Tantric sex is not just for hippies and rock stars like Sting. This 5,000 year old discipline advocates slow sex as a way to increase awareness.

8. Slow thinking

Stretch out on the grass and stare up at the clouds. It’s amazing how often the biggest breakthroughs come when you turn off the conscious chatter.

Has anyone got any tips on how to put on the brakes and slow down?

Andrew May

is the CEO of The Performance Clinic and is recognised as a leading performance and productivity expert.

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