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Summer Slow

Updated: Jul 1

It's probable that everyone should go take a nap—after you read this brief post that is... So my calendar said I should finish three writing projects today, but this afternoon my brain, after deciding to wake at 3 a.m., said it wanted a nap. I have been telling myself that slowing down and resting is a legitimate use of one's time. The science seems to support the benefits of rest and napping.

For the sake of science, I took a ten-minute nap. I would have slept longer if my brain had allowed it, but incredibly, that brief bit helped. My mental fog lifted just a little, and even though I didn’t finish all three projects, I felt better. And the experience sent me on a research mission.

Bella is our household's expert napper.

According to an American Psychological Association report, a nap can sharpen our memories, enhance our performance, and improve our frustration tolerance. We all know the world sometimes decides not to go the way we wish it would, but if we humans were better at things like frustration tolerance, we might be better off. Naps to the rescue?

A word of caution: a long, delicious nap might very easily lead to nighttime wakefulness. Naps work as long as we don't overdo it. The Mayo Clinic link below offers some common-sense tips for good napping.

Because sleep is not my strong suit, I'm determined to get better at finding ways to recharge. Quiet wakefulness, which means closing one's eyes and lying still while letting the senses rest, might help. Like naps, this does not replace a good night's sleep, but early research shows it can improve memory and motor skills.

So why am I talking about naps when I'm normally kvetching about the state of our planet? It links back to a book I read a couple of years ago. In Richard Powers' Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Overstory, I remember one scene in particular. It centered around Dorothy, a character who wanted to leave her marriage, but after her husband's stroke she instead settles down to become his caretaker. She and her husband watch the trees that they had planted together grow in the backyard. It's as if their rhythms slow to match those of the trees. This is an unexpected turn in Dorothy's story, but there's such beauty in it.

Dorothy makes me think that sometimes the problem with humans is that we're just too busy. Maybe if we all slowed down and observed nature more often, we would be in a better place, and the Earth would be in a better place too.

Of course, one must work because we need to pay for things—food, shelter, transportation, and the like. Still, in my middle age I look around at all of the useless things I've acquired over the years, and I often wonder why my younger self thought they were so necessary—except for the shoes. I still need those shoes.

Anyway, I want to try slowing down a bit. It will involve saying no sometimes and doing a little less in order to say yes to things that matter. After all, there's only so much energy out there. Whether we're thinking of the energy contained in our bodies or the fossil fuels we're so addicted to, we need to slow down, shift gears, and find a more observant way to proceed.

The summer season is a good time to ask yourself, if not now, then when? Do you too want to slow down? Do you aspire to a quieter, slower rhythm? Please share your thoughts and strategies for giving yourself some rest.

Then go take that well-deserved nap!

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