The Power of a Pause to Improve Your Work and Life

The Power of a Pause to Improve Your Work and Life

We set up our itinerary so we could see and do as much as possible in eight days. I kept feeling like I was seeing everything, but nothing was being absorbed. At some point, I felt like I was no longer enjoying anything. We were in Italy and instead of feeling joy, I felt the need to “hurry up and see.” My family rushed from one site to the next and finally in exasperation I said, “Hey, can we pause?” We all sat down on a bench for a breather. It was then that we decided to let go of the agenda. I took a deep breath and started to sigh.

It was after that pause that I formed my fondest memories of the trip. Set back and tucked away down a little alley near our bench, we soon discovered a small little handmade chocolate shop. It had been there for many years and was known to the locals as one of the best in Italy. It felt like each bar of chocolate was infused with love. After taking it all in, we sat outside watching the children eat their candy. We would have missed this precious moment if we had kept pushing ourselves.

Digest your experience
We need pauses to take in and digest our experiences. Our lives are so full of “to do’s” that we have lost our ability to “just be.” Creating pauses in our lives allows us to assimilate and integrate. It gives us space for our creativity to emerge and for our minds and hearts to rest and regroup. And sometimes, it’s in that pause that magic happens.

How can I make myself pause?
Ornish Lifestyle Medicine’s stress management practices allow us to do just that. In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, Dr. Ornish and colleagues found that stress management training improved the health of their study subject’s hearts. 

There are three Ornish Lifestyle Medicine stress management techniques that can help:
Yoga postures: These are slow, gentle stretches done with awareness. We move and then we rest and observe. The pause is as important as the movement because it allows us to take in the effects of the movement. If you just move, you can miss the information your body communicates to you about yourself. As you train your body to both move and take moments of rest, you start to see this take shape in your life by bringing balance to your daily activities. You will start to notice how you naturally slow down and start to enjoy the moment. This slowing down also helps your heart rest, and it will keep you from carrying your stress from moment to moment.

Breathing techniques: When you train your breath to be smoother, longer, deeper and slower, it allows your nervous system to rest. A 2009 randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found that slow breathing exercise caused improvements in both sympathetic and parasympathetic reactivity and improved hypertension. It gives pause to the busyness with a moment of conscious awareness. If you’re stressed, shifting your awareness to your breath can create a space for you to shift your attitude and for a new way of experiencing your life to emerge.

Meditation practice: Begin by sitting quietly and watching your mind. You’ll start to notice your thoughts. At some point, this practice will allow your awareness to slip into the pauses. Over time and with practice, the pauses will become longer and your mind will linger in a deep space of consciousness.

What if I don’t have time to pause?
We all have time to pause. If we don’t, life will find a way for us to take one for us, whether we like it or not.

Not sure where to begin? While you’re washing the dishes, walking or even eating a meal, just focus on the action of what is right in front of you. Being mindful can offer your busy mind a much-needed vacation.

This content originally appeared on Ornish Lifestyle Medicine.

Medically reviewed in August 2019.

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