How to Slow Down and Enjoy Life

Sometimes it seems as though days have two speeds: hurried and breakneck. Want to learn how to hop off the roller coaster? Five savvy experts who know all about the fast track—including a website founder and a race-car driver—share their strategies.

Photo by Leif Parsons

1. Play

My time at work is spent on demanding, intense tasks that have specific objectives, but I have almost no routine on the job. So having rituals at home that aren’t goal-oriented provides a calm point in an otherwise unpredictable day. When I’m playing with my children—whether we’re reading books, jumping on the trampoline, dancing, or pretending that we’re animals—there are no deadlines that need to be met. These are activities that are solely about being in the present. And when I put my son to bed every night, as I have done since he was an infant, it marks a nice, quiet part of the day that I would find hard to live without. It is a tradition that I will not rush, allowing it to take as much time as it requires.

Mikkel F.  Andersen, Ph.D., is a physicist and a senior lecturer at the University of Otago, in Dunedin, New Zealand, where he developed a technique to isolate and capture fast-moving atoms.

2. Dive Underwater

My work keeps me on the road, whether I’m driving 200 miles per hour around a racetrack or heading to Capitol Hill to lobby for clean energy. I don’t get away from this hectic schedule very often, but when I do, I find it incredibly calming to be underwater—swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving—because it gives me the feeling that things are happening in slow motion. Ever since I was a very young girl, a sense of peace has come over me whenever I’m in the water. Its resistance slows down my movements, and it makes me feel like I’m floating in an abyss of blue. The water removes all distractions, and nothing else seems to matter.

Leilanti Münter is a professional race-car driver and an environmental blogger and activist. She lives in Cornelius, North Carolina.

3. Head Outdoors

When I find myself saying, “I don’t have time for…,” I’ll go outside with my camera and look for things to photograph. The camera is like a pair of corrective glasses: Through its various lenses, I locate treasures that I would normally walk right past. A zoom lens reveals so much. The other day, I studied a species of millipede that I hadn’t known before. In addition to the new things that I see through my camera, being outside allows me to discover new smells. Each day has a distinct aroma: Heat has a different scent than cold, for example, and my garden plants each have their own perfume. If I rush, I will miss all of this. There is no more powerful antidote to a frenetic life than a connection to nature.

Margaret Roach is a former newspaper and magazine editor who, in 2007, moved from New York City to rural Copake Falls, New York. She is the author of the memoir And I Shall Have Some Peace Out There ($15, and The Backyard Parables, due out in January 2013.