We humans

6 things people do around the world to slow down

Feb 16, 2023 /

Is living too fast turning your life into a blur? How can you slow down to see things clearly and savor them more?

One way is to take inspiration from calming rituals and traditions found across the world. If you’ve already mastered the Spanish siesta — aka the midday nap — what other practices can you build into your life?

Read my curated list below to find out. And to learn more insights and techniques to help you shift into the slow lane, consider joining my TED Course “How to slow down.”

1. Shinrin yoku

Eco-therapy. Green time. Wilderness cure. Whatever name you hang on it, spending time in nature is a wonderful way to slow down.

It makes you calmer, happier and less stressed. It boosts memory, creativity and concentration. It can also deepen friendships.

In Japan, spending time in nature is called shinrin yoku (“forest bathing”) — and Japanese doctors prescribe it to their patients.

I prescribe it to myself. My favorite way to reset is to stroll around the park near my home in London.

Shinrin yoku is easy to do: Just head to the nearest green space and start walking, picnicking, camping, gardening.

2. Fika

The Swedish word fika translates as “coffee and cake break,” yet it means so much more than that. Fika is a mindset: slowing down, being present, savoring the moment.

Forget slurping a latte while walking down the street and using your phone. When you fika, you put away the screens and sit down somewhere cozy. You sip your coffee (or your drink of choice). You nibble on a delicious cake or cookie. And you enjoy a proper chat with someone.

You can fika anytime, anywhere. Do it with a friend over homemade muffins in your own kitchen. Or head to a coffee shop to shoot the breeze over pastries with a colleague.

Fika is so uplifting that regular fika breaks are written into some job contracts in Sweden.

3. Slow Radio

A rich soundscape can transport you anywhere and offer refuge from the frenzy of modern life. That’s why I love Slow Radio on the BBC.

I listen to elephants wallowing in Zimbabwe, birds singing in Buenos Aires or a small boat navigating down the Thames River in London. The sounds are deep, immersive and soothing.

Slow Radio is free online. Just slip on some headphones, hit “play” and let a symphony of slowness wash over you.

4. Ubuntu

One of my favorite proverbs is: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

It’s a reminder that a slower life is built on strong relationships. That spirit is captured by the word ubuntu, which means “I am because we are” in the Zulu and Xhosa languages of southern Africa.

You channel ubuntu by being kind, generous and compassionate. Being of service. Building community.

I practice ubuntu by committing random acts of kindness. Like bantering with the cashier at the supermarket. Or helping a vulnerable person cross the road.

5. Dolce far niente

In a world terrified of wasting time, doing nothing feels like a crime or a sin.

I’m here to say: It is neither! Because idleness is an art form.

It offers sweet relief from the daily grind and the relentless pressure to achieve, and Italians call it il dolce far niente.

Trust me: Once you get over the guilt, doing nothing is actually very easy. Put down tools, turn off your phone, stop striving and then … sink into the moment.

Lie in the grass or gaze out the window and let your mind wander. Pretty soon you’ll be singing the praises of living more by doing less.

6. Indian head massage

Massaging the head has been a tool of Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. And no wonder.

Whatever your view on chakras, a good head massage has been shown to relieve stress and headaches as well as kickstart the lymphatic system. It can leave you feeling relaxed and better able to concentrate.

A head massage from an expert is the ultimate luxury. But you can also go the DIY route. Place three fingers at the point where your neck joins your head just behind the ear. Then rub your fingers back and forth. Within 30 seconds, you’ll feel a warm, slow glow.

Want more tips on how to slow down and enjoy life? Sign up for Carl Honoré’s virtual TED Course here. And for even more insights on how you can improve your everyday life and wellbeing, from strengthening your romantic relationships to navigating major life changes, check out our other TED Courses led by some of your favorite TED speakers here.