In the academic halls and laboratories of graduate school, I remember how extreme busyness had been a badge of honor. The busier one was with their research, their teaching, their committees, the more successful or valued the student or faculty member appeared to be.
I soon discovered this same type of standard (the busier the better) evident outside of school as well – within the climate at the medical center where I worked, on the playground with parents championing unsustainable extra-curricular obligations on behalf of their children, and even at the meditation center with practitioners shoe -horning in a steady stream of day-longs and residential retreats into an already spiritually-bursting calendar.
Busyness, defined not by hard work but by multitasking (e.g., Charlton 2006), has been promoted by our culture and internalized by individuals as a yardstick for self-worth. And yet, cognitive science has shown that busyness and multitasking come at a cost (Courage et al 2015). For example, attending to two or more tasks at once can impair one’s performance. And, simply living near a busy road has been found to correlate with an increased risk of cardiac disease and hypertension (Pindus, Orru and Modig 2015)!
On the other hand, increased mindfulness of one’s experience (e.g., paying attention to one thing at a time) as well as acceptance of it has been found to reduce biological stress reactivity, lowering cortisol levels and systolic blood pressure (Lindsay et al 2018). Slowing down and savoring events in the present moment has been found to enhance positive experiences (Quoidbach et al 2010).
The Slow Movement was launched in the late eighties, emphasizing a thoughtful pacing and savoring of life in its many expressions such as in food, fashion, media, counseling, travel, gardening, education, among others. The movement prioritizes the spirit in which life is lived above the speed in which it is executed, the quality and sustainability of experience over the quantity of output.
Bravo to the Slow City or CittaSlow Movement that has expanded to included ten countries around the world promoting the following mission:
“The recurrent theme of Cittaslow is identity: the soul of the local communities engages with modernity without being unduly influenced by globalization. Our responsibility towards the natural world and the coming generations requires us to be frugal and concerned for Mother Earth. Rediscovering Slowness means choosing a future of quality, for ourselves and, in the spirit of solidarity, for others.
Working towards sustainability, defending the environment and reducing our excessive ecological footprint mean committing ourselves to rediscover traditional know-how and to make the most of our resources through recycling and reuse, applying the new technologies. The final objective is lasting development (not synonymous with growth) and peace between peoples. This is what the Slow mayors do every day through hundreds of projects throughout the world.”
Check it out: www.cittaslow.org