As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us have been forced to slow down, and we’re not used to it. With no morning and afternoon commutes in rush hour traffic, shuttling the kids from school to soccer practice, or hustling from one errand to another, we find ourselves with ‘down time’ on our hands. Free time to do nothing? What’s that?!
While it may feel uncomfortable or unproductive to simply rest, rather than fill up that newly found time with more homebound activities, slowing down can do the body good. Here are the science-backed reasons why.
1) More sleep for a stronger body and brain
If you’ve been in quarantine (and don’t have young kids, a dog to walk, or some other early morning commitment, and haven’t been late night Netflix binging), you might be sleeping longer. More sleep doesn’t only mean more time snuggled under cozy blankets — it’s also beneficial to the body in so many ways:
The body heals
Our body recovers and regenerates while we sleep. The longer we sleep, the longer our body has to heal tired muscles, strengthen the immune system, regulate hormones and reduce inflammation. Sleep is key to keeping your body healthy and strong.
Better brain function
When we sleep, our brain is able to reorganize and recharge itself, all while clearing unwanted information and toxins that accumulate while awake. Sleep has been shown to improve memory recall, remove toxic molecules from the brain, and improve decision making and reflexes. That’s right —getting enough sleep helps to promote optimal brain function.
2) Mindful eating for increased pleasure and health
Food Tastes better
I’m willing to bet that with more time to focus on your food, you’ll find more enjoyment in every bite. Why? Because when you eat peacefully, and not while multitasking or on the go, you’re more present and able to savor the taste of your food.
In fact, studies show that eating slowly actually optimizes the movement of scent particles in food and drink to our sensory receptors, thereby enhancing its aroma. Eating becomes truly enjoyable, rather than only about nourishment and satisfying hunger.
When you’re not rushing to eat, you digest your food more efficiently and absorb nutrients more effectively. For many of us, this simple tweak can have a powerful effect, helping to relieve constipation, bloating and gas and increasing energy levels.
When you slow down to listen to your body, you'll also learn to stop eating when you’re full, and even discover what foods and nutrients your body truly needs and craves. Taking the time to enjoy the flavors in each bite is not just good for the soul, but also for the body.
Give it a try with these mindful eating and drinking exercises:
- Chocolate: rather than chewing your chocolate bar, let each square melt slowly on your tongue while you savor all of the complex notes of the cacao.
- Hot drink: rather than drinking while you work away on your computer, set aside a few minutes to slowly sip on a warm tea or elixir, taking in the aroma and feeling the soothing liquid travel down your throat.
3) Hobbies to relieve stress, train your brain and more
When life is in full swing, we sometimes get into the bad habit of leaving non-essential or non-work related activities at the bottom of our list. But when you’re able to take a break from the go-go-go, rather than filling your time with random activities for the sake of being productive, try taking a “break with a purpose”.
Engaging in hobbies has been shown to have many benefits, including reducing stress, providing gratification from mastering new challenges, training the brain to be more creative, and lifting your mood and providing joy! When you make time for your hobbies, before you know it, you’ll be relaxed from the pleasure in activities that aren't associated with work, chores or other responsibilities.
4) Practicing Gratitude to increase happiness
When you slow down, you’re able to truly acknowledge and appreciate the little (and big) things around you. Things like having the perfect cup of coffee, or noticing the way the morning sun shines into your home. Studies have shown that gratitude can lead to happiness, and not only does increased happiness make each day brighter, but it can positively impact your long term health.
These are just a few examples of how slowing down can lead to a stronger, happier, healthier you. So next time you catch yourself trying to fill every free moment, try to pause and be in the present. Hit the pillow earlier, relax and savor your meals, or take an hour or two to engage in something that brings you joy. That important break from your go-go-go will do your mind, body and soul so much good that we bet you’ll start looking for ways to slow down every chance you get.