Inside: Here are 10 ways to slow down and relax even when life is busy. If you want to enjoy more of the little moments, this post is for you.
There’s no denying we live in a fast-paced world with endless to-do lists, appointments and responsibilities.
Trust me, I get it—with young children and a small business to run, I’m right there with you! Some days there’s barely enough time for all the things we have to do (never mind the things we want to do).
But here’s the good news.
After a decade of experimenting with simple and intentional living, I’ve learned there are simple ways to slow things down. Here are 10 real-world tips for less stress and more joy in our daily lives.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I recommend products and make a small commission on purchases at no additional cost to you. Click here for the full disclosure statement.
10 Simple Ways To Slow Down + Enjoy Life
1. Change your environment
When I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed, I’ve learned that there are three specific changes I can make to my environment in order to slow down and relax: lighting, scent, and sound.
For example, around 6 pm most evenings:
- I dim the lights (by turning off overhead lighting and switching to small lamps)
- put on a calming playlist (my current favourite is the Into the Wild soundtrack)
- and then put some lavender oil into a diffuser
Whenever I do this, something instantly changes inside of me. I still have to clean up dinner, bathe my babies, and deal with bedtime—but somehow, those tasks feel different. It feels less like work and more like I’m *flowing* through my evening.
It’s a subtle shift, but it’s enough to help me slow down enough to enjoy the mundane yet beautiful parts of my everyday life. I’m more grounded in the present moment, and my sense of time shifts from hurried and rushed to calm and at ease.
2. Get some fresh air
When I used to work in the corporate world, one of my go-to ways of creating ease on a busy day was to take five minutes to go outside and stare at the clouds.
The fresh air and sunshine would invigorate me, plus there’s something special about looking into the sky and feeling small. It always helped me find perspective; suddenly, my inbox and to-do felt far less overwhelming. (Of course, what I had to do remained the same, but how I felt about it changed.)
These days, you’re likely to find me leaning out an open window, taking a deep breath, and letting my eyes rest on the city below me (my apartment is on the 17th floor). I take a few minutes to notice the details—pedestrians crossing the street, the mountains in the distance, the sounds of the city—and it still works. Life slows on a deeper level, even with crying children and a basket of laundry to fold!
The benefits of spending time outdoors also include improved sleep, improved mood and ‘mental restoration’!
3. Check in with yourself
If you catch yourself thinking, “How can I slow down my busy life?” I recommend you stop what you’re doing and find a few minutes for self-reflection.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What do I need to feel better?
- In this moment, what matters most?
- What am I feeling right now?
This simple habit is a powerful way to protect your mental health. Acknowledging your emotional and physical needs creates perspective, and it becomes easier to see that taking a bit longer to get things done rarely matters in the big scheme of things.
4. Read for a few minutes
I know that when you’re busy, taking a few minutes to read is probably the last thing on your mind. Instead, most of us tend to view reading for pleasure as a “treat”—something to do after you’ve done everything else on your to-do list.
I’m definitely not immune to falling into this trap, BUT I’ve found that if I’m intentional about reading during the day (even if it’s just for a few minutes) it helps me to slow down and relax. I’m not sure of the science behind it, but if I had to guess, I’d say that reading forces your brain to focus. It makes it impossible to multitask, so for a few minutes at least, you can truly rest.
5. Observe your breath
When it feels like time is slipping away, a quick and easy way to regain control is to observe your breath.
This article goes in-depth about the many ways you can practise breath awareness, but I’ve found that one of the simplest ways is to take note of how your breath feels on your nostrils. It might sound silly, but I highly encourage you to give it a try. Just take a few deep breaths and pay close attention to the tickle!
Another technique I really enjoy is alternate nostril breathing. I find it really energises me when I’m feeling drained, and it’s a great way to reset yourself when you only have a little time.
6. Write a list (or two!)
Another of my favourite ways to slow down is to take a few minutes to write a list. This list journal by Breathe Magazine (affiliate link) is fantastic, or try one of these simple ideas:
- gratitude list
- bucket list of new experiences
- travel wishlist
- things that bring me joy
I like writing lists because it’s so easy! While I’m a huge fan of journaling, I understand that sometimes facing a blank page is overwhelming. List writing, on the other hand, makes it easier to decide what to write about (which is especially important when you’re shifting from a fast pace to a slower one).
Bonus points if you can sneak off to a coffee shop or somewhere else where you’re able to switch off. All you need is a pen, paper and a few minutes to let your mind wander.
The Simply + Fiercely Show is a podcast for women who want to clear their clutter and create space for freedom and joy. If your life keeps getting bigger—but not better—then it’s time to declutter from the inside out. LISTEN NOW
7. Move your body
Physical movement is another one of those things that we tend to overlook when we’re busy, but I think this is because of the expectations we set for ourselves. It’s easy to get caught up in the belief that moving your body is only valuable if it’s a “proper workout”, but in my experience, this is far from the truth.
Instead, I’ve found that taking even a quick five minutes to stretch, do a few yoga poses, or take a short walk can do wonders for your well-being. It grounds me; the more I’m aware of my body, the easier it is for me to get out of my own head. It feels like time slows, and of course, it’s good for your physical health too.
8. Practice simple rituals
This is something I started doing after the birth of my daughter. In the early days, I spent a lot of time at home with her and too often, I felt like the day would slip away without me realising it. Of course, I was mindful of my limitations as a new mum, but still … I craved something to help me feel grounded and more at ease.
The solution I landed on was creating small rituals throughout my day: burning incense while I made coffee, washing my face and applying a nice moisturiser during nap time, and stroking her hair while I nursed her. It might not seem like much, but the sum of these little rituals combined added a rhythm to my day that helped me to slow down and enjoy my time as a new mum a bit more.
Related Post: 10 Simple Pleasures That Make Life Beautiful
9. Unplug and switch off
Have you ever noticed that when you spend time online, on your phone, or in front of the TV … that time just slips away?
It’s not in your head. A recent study has found “evidence that our constant use of technology is making our brains more efficient at processing information”, and as a result, our perception of time is changing.
(Plus, we all know how easily five minutes on Facebook can quickly turn into thirty, especially when you’re on a mobile device!)
Now, I’m obviously not against the internet or social media, but I do believe that we should be mindful of our approach. If you feel the need to slow down a busy day, one of the quickest and easiest things you can do is make the intentional decision to disconnect for a while.
10. Set clear boundaries
Finally, one of the best ways to slow down is by setting boundaries. In this case, I’m not talking about saying “no” to other people (although that’s often a good idea as well!). Instead, I’m talking about creating your own mental boundaries.
For example, one of my biggest challenges is often trying to balance getting work done (either around the house or for this blog) with taking care of my children. It’s easy to let these conflicting life priorities overwhelm me—but I keep this from happening by setting boundaries.
This means making a conscious decision not to worry or stress about something for a set period of time:
- I’m not going to think about housework or my blog for the next two hours while I play with my daughter.
- I’m going to do housework for the next hour and not feel guilty about encouraging my daughter to play independently.
- Today during nap time, I’m going to focus on my blog and not worry about the dirty dishes in the sink.
I don’t necessarily think this way every day (I’m human, not a robot!), but whenever I start feeling like time is getting away from me, I use this tactic to regain control. The result is I’m usually more productive, and I feel better too.
How To Slow Down Your Life
If this has inspired you to learn more about slow living, here are some additional blog posts that you might enjoy:
- 8 Ways to Embrace A Slow-Paced Life – an article in praise of slowness, with more practical tips for a fulfilled life.
- How to Create a Culture of Slow Living – because major changes happen when we embrace slow living as a community.
- 7 Simple Ways To Start Living Intentionally – we can save time by being more intentional with how we use it.
- 7 Tips to Declutter Your Mind – reduce your mental load, and you’ll spend less time feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
What do you think? Do you have any tips to help slow down and relax? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts! x