“The quieter you become the more you can hear.” ~Ram Dass
We live our lives at such a fast pace. We seem to be working more hours and juggling more tasks both at work and home, with no relenting.
As part of the technological age, we are connected 24/7, and we find it difficult to switch off.
It has changed the face of how we live and work. Expectations are higher, the pace of life is quickening, and we’re struggling to keep up.
In a world that encourages noise and busy-ness, we find it hard to be quiet and still.
I recently left a stressful job in the corporate world to regain balance in my life. I was so busy making a living that I’d forgotten to make a life, and my health was suffering as a result.
I am now an advocate for “slowing down to speed up.” Prioritizing relaxation and self-care makes me more alive and more effective, and it allows better decision-making, hence making life easier.
We have been conditioned by society to maximize every second of the day by doing something. Some people see relaxing as unproductive, wasting time, and even selfish if we’re taking time for ourselves.
But in this busy world it’s not just individuals that benefit from time out; our bosses, colleagues, friends, and family also reap the benefits when we’re rested and refreshed.
In the modern age we are overwhelmed by technology. It now dominates our homes and work-life and keeps us in touch with friends, families, and the world around the clock.
In the days before handheld devices, people could leave the office on Friday and not see their emails again until Monday morning. We would sit on bus and talk to one another rather than being lost in an iPad.
My former morning routine consisted of eating breakfast while checking Facebook, reading my personal and work emails (even though I was going to be in the office in less than an hour), and then watching the news on TV. A similar kind of routine would play out at the other end of the day over dinner.
I recently took three months off and spent time living in yoga ashrams and Buddhist temples where there was no TV and Internet.
Surprisingly, I found I didn’t miss it. It freed up so much of my time each day, time spent enjoying my meal, being present, noticing the birds in the trees, and talking to those around me.
The most amazing thing was when I returned to civilization and logged on to check the news, Facebook, and emails, I hadn’t really missed anything. But I’d gained so much more.
I’d experienced what I was doing. I’d not been distracted by petty stories that didn’t matter or that may have impacted my state of mind negatively. Most of all, my mind had become de-cluttered and focused, and I felt a certain clarity I enjoyed.
As a result of a technology fetish, we are spending more time inside. This is leading to an alarming vitamin D shortage in many developed nations, particularly in the northern hemisphere when we don’t get enough sunlight.
We no longer live off the land in rural areas. Many of us are confined to cities, living and working in concrete towers. As a result, we have lost touch with our connection with nature, which studies suggest is vital for our health.
We know how refreshing it feels to take a walk in the park or sit by a lake, and research is now showing it goes much further than that.
The connection we get from being in nature utilizes all the senses and brings clarity and focus, which is why sometimes when I was struggling for inspiration in the office or couldn’t solve a complex problem, it would help to take a stroll to clear my mind.
Many offices now use walking meetings as a way of improving health, creativity, and productivity. This is especially powerful in the technological age when emails and phones so often disrupt our concentration and cause breaks in our creativity.
UK charity Mind suggest that time in nature is beneficial for those with depression, as it enhances mood and self-esteem and reduces anger, confusion, and tension.
It has also been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce pain, and strengthen the immune system.
A study done involving patients recovering from gall bladder surgery in a hospital compared a group who had a view of nature outside their window to those without a view of nature.
This study found that those who looked out onto nature recovered quicker than those who didn’t.
At the same time as we are suffering from a lack of outdoor sunlight, we also need more exercise. Diseases like obesity and depression are at epidemic proportions, and still worsening. Research suggests that being outside more often could help on both counts.
According to recent studies, sitting is the new smoking, and hours at desks, in cars, or in front of the TV is damaging our health more than we realize.
It more than doubles your risk of diabetes and is linked with an increase in heart disease. In fact, inactivity is the fourth biggest killer of adults, according to the World Health Organization.
I’m not suggesting we should all go and live in caves on the top of a mountain, but I am an advocate for ensuring we have an opportunity to disconnect.
Maybe turn your work device off over the weekend, have a TV-free night each week, resolve not to check Facebook every day, or even better, take a technology break for a week, maybe when you go on your annual vacation, and see what it does for you.
Sometimes we need to disconnect so we can reconnect with our real selves and not give way to the many distractions in our lives. This brings the clarity we need to make good decisions and to listen to what we want and how we feel about the things that really matter.
So I urge you to put down your device, switch off the TV, turn away from the computer screen, put down your phone, and get outside.
As the saying goes, there’s no Wi-Fi in the forest, but you’ll get a stronger connection.
Woman on a swing image via Shutterstock