The theory of slowing down, or taking the time to be present in the here and now, in order to approach life with more vigour is nothing new. Buddhist monks have have been practicing it for centuries in the form of meditation.
More recently people have been swept up by the mindfulness revolution using meditation, self awareness and compassion to deal with busy 21st century lifestyles. And it’s no surprise. 25% of employees took time off in 2016 because of stress, while 40% of UK workers admitted to checking their work emails at least five times outside of office hours. It’s increasingly difficult to switch off, even when we leave our workplace, school, or stresses behind us. And, while slowing down isn’t a long-term answer to unhealthy or overtaxing lifestyles, it can help you to establish priorities and refocus your mind.
So what is mindfulness? Alexa Frey, co founder of London Mindful, a space dedicated to teaching mindful practices in a secular and accessible way, explains:
“Mindfulness stems from a large philosophical and psychological system, from Buddhism. It’s about being curious, accepting, having self compassion, and being aware of your attachments.”
Alexa began practicing mindfulness after a friend recommended it to help calm down what she describes as an “overactive brain”. She’s never looked back, and has been following mindfulness principles for just under a decade.
“I used to walk really fast, think really fast, eat really fast. Mindfulness has helped me to be more still, slower, appreciate things, and connect with myself.
“For example, if you have a busy office job, you might not be mindful of your body and sit at your desk and work and work and work, and not notice that you’re hungry, uncomfortable, or tired. In the longterm that can lead to burnout.
“With mindfulness you’re breaking that cycle, becoming more aware of how your brain is actually feeling, how your body is feeling. You learn to be more kind to yourself.”
Alexa stresses that mindfulness isn’t something you develop overnight, and recommends taking a course to develop good habits and really unlock the benefits that slowing down can bring.
Nevertheless, she suggests some small life hacks to help achieve a little zen during the day:
“You might decide after two hours of staring at a screen that it’s time to get up and go for a walk, or maybe close your eyes and do a one minute meditation. You are more inclined to take care of yourself if you are practicing mindfulness.
“Even if you can’t get rid of the stresses that are weighing you down at a particular moment, just behaviourally engaging and nourishing a moment is important.”
Lush Spa treatment developer Hannah Lammiman agrees, fitting a little bit of calm into a busy day can be enough to boost vitality and keep your body and mind healthy.
She says: “We definitely all need some time to slow down, because I think we’ve lost the art of relaxation. That doesn’t mean you need to stop and slow everything down in your life, it just means you go about things in a slower more mindful, processed way.
“Giving yourself that time, even if it’s just five minutes, makes you more productive and focussed.”
But for someone who lives a fast-paced lifestyle, slowing down can feel out of the question. With so much to get done, it’s easy to put your own needs at the back of the pile.
“It is not always about stopping for a long period of time. Not everyone’s life is geared up for that, but you wouldn’t run your washing machine, or your car 24-hours-a-day,” Hannah says.
“We give our machines rest, but we don’t do this for ourselves. Why aren’t we stopping to give ourselves the time we need?”
And we really do need it. Not only is it proven that multitasking is often less efficient than doing one thing at a time, taking regular holidays, exploring nature, even just sleeping more, can boost your brain’s ability to get the job done.
Spa treatments are one way of giving yourself that time to focus on your mind and body. The process of physically booking in a slot for ‘slowing down’ can also help to schedule that much needed self-care into your life.
What’s more, the most effective breaks are the ones that involve calming the mind through deep breathing, meditation and yoga. These dedicated meditative experiences help to renew the mind and body, and are particularly effective in relieving stress. Research has shown that cultivating self care practices like mindfulness or deep breathing can reduce levels of cortisol (a stress hormone).
Giving people the chance to really switch off and focus on the present is a key element of Lush Spa treatments. Hannah explains:
“We like to think that we’re very lucky someone might come and indulge in a spa treatment at Lush. Time is precious, but what we’re asking you to do, is to slow down, stop, and think what is it that you need to let go of.
“Indulge in your treatment. Give us an hour, and your body will repay you with more energy and more vigour than before. By giving yourself an hour of time to let your mind and body rest, you will gain back more from it in the long run.”
Choose from 11 ways to slow down, or learn more about the benefits a spa treatment can have on your mind and body in The Lush Spa Experiment.