Before getting my first Driver’s License, my father insisted I learn to drive by using a stick-shift. I drove that type of car for years and grew to appreciate the gears and how they work—including the downshift. So although the vast majority of cars now automatically shift for us, the downshift is still very much a part of the engine. As it turns out, I think the human body also has such a gear. That’s partially why I decided to use the next month (August) as a time to downshift from this blog. No I’m not shutting it down, but I am going to pause for 30 days and sink into a more mindful, aware and slower version of my life. After contemplating this idea for several weeks, I am hoping that my downshift will generate three important benefits. And in case anyone wants to join me in their own downshift, I’ve listed three good reasons it makes sense.
For those of you who are fairly new to SMART Living 365, my first blog post was June 8, 2011. Yes, nine years ago. And during that time I have never once missed posting once a week. Even when I was traveling out of the country I scheduled guest posters to fill in for me. I also experimented a couple of times and posted more than once a week—but began posting every Friday for at least the last five.
Why? I write and blog because I receive so much satisfaction from finding intriguing bits of information (about mostly positive stuff of course!) and then putting my words down so I can share them with others. I believe I think better when I write. Of course, I realize that my writing is my unique voice and that not everyone approves or appreciates that. Plus, I think it is fairly obvious that my blog isn’t a money-maker for me. (Although I do receive royalties from my books, I never accept advertising.) Still, as long as I feel the benefits, I have always wanted and needed to continue.
As far as my maintaining a weekly schedule, anyone who knows me knows that a schedule is a tool that helps me stay on track and motivated. Once in a while it feels restrictive, but most of the time it is like brushing my teeth twice a day. I just do it because it is part of who I am. However, even with that said, every now and then a “pause” is a good idea to make sure our actions haven’t just become a habit. I intend to find out by taking a month off.
So what are the anticipated benefits of any downshift?
#1 Safety. Just like with any vehicle, a downshift helps to keep us safe. If you’ve ever driven behind a semi-truck cresting a hill and then heard them shift gears, you know they are doing that to make sure that the heavy vehicle doesn’t just plunge downhill taking another couple of cars with them. The driver shifts into lower gears to keep himself and his truck safe.
By the same token, if we race through life, jam tons of activities into our days (and yes that is possible even in a pandemic), then we need to consciously downshift now and then. Sure sleeping is good and that helps our bodies. But what about our minds? Are we letting our minds rest and recover or instead unconsciously allowing our brains to shift into overdrive with every possibility? While there might be advantages to having a “accelerated” mind, we still need to downshift when approaching a curve. Plus, we should never forget that what we allow to happen in our brains (worry, anxiety, frustration) also has a very profound effect on our bodies. A downshift is a perfect way to slow that all down and put the focus on what is happening right here, right now.
#2 To preserve equipment. One of the major elements in any vehicle is the braking system. You don’t use it every moment you’re driving, but it is extremely necessary when you need it. Downshifting allows the driver to preserve the braking system so when needed, you know it is reliable.
Likewise, I think it is easier when we are younger to take our bodies (and minds) for granted. We can rush around doing anything and everything, filling our daily moments with to-do lists and often never feel the consequences. However, if you’re anything like me, I can’t do that anymore. Even when I want to go-go-go my body is telling me to not push it quite the same. And frankly, why do I need to? At this age I no longer need to keep up with others unless it is something that I really, really want to do, be or have. But if I unconsciously push myself without awareness, it is likely I’ll forget how to downshift and maybe even burn out my system. I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to preserve my “equipment” mentally, emotionally and physically. A choice to downshift when the timing seems right is a very healthy thing to do.
#3 Enjoy the scenery. When I was younger I’ll admit I had a thing for speed. I’d get behind the wheel of my little car (with a stick shift of course) and race around anywhere I could. Did I enjoy the scenery? Yes, once in a while. But looking back I am positive I missed a lot.
Downshifting, like rightsizing, gives us an opportunity to slow down and smell the gardenias. It allows us to look with awe at all the beauty that still exists in our world even when sometimes challenging issues are happening at the same time. It gifts us with the mindfulness that right here, right now we are okay and so are the majority of those we know and love (even when we know there is plenty more that we can be doing!)
I read online yesterday that there are 100 more days until the next election. I have no doubt that the coming three months will be full of news, controversy, anticipation, hope, discouragement and even fear. I also know that I want to be more engaged than I have ever been before because I truly feel our country needs that right now. But I also know that I need to keep my mind and body safe, to “preserve my equipment” and to enjoy the scenery around me at the same time. It’s never an either/or. I want to remember it is a both/and.
By downshifting for the next month (and whenever necessary after that) I want to emerge from the experience with a greater sense of what matters to me. I also expect to feel rejuvenated and excited to keep writing and sharing with all of you in the days ahead. I have no idea if you too could use a downshift, but I invite you to consider that it might be one of the SMARTest things you could do this August.