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The art of being slow

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The positive in the pandemic is that it has forced us to re-evaluate our lives. This is the message of Dr. Greg Wells, a performance physiologist and senior associate scientist at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.

Wells’ latest book, Rest, Refocus and Recharge: A Guide for Optimizing Your Life, comes at a time when we could all use some help for living our best lives.


Take a step back from the manufactured and imposed busyness of our past experiences and embrace this opportunity to slow down, calm our brains and rejuvenate our bodies.

“So, this idea of constantly pushing and having to be busy has been upended recently,” says Wells. “We now have an opportunity to reimagine the future and slow down.”


By taming those electrical waves in our brain and shifting gears. There are four main categories of brainwaves. All four are active at any one time, although one will be more dominant than the other three, apart from delta waves that we experience when sleeping.

Beta is dominated by high-frequency brain waves that dominate when we are in our hustle mode, when we are in a state of extreme busyness. We

“What I hope people think about is not just getting back to normal,” he says. “I think that’s a danger. We are seeing 25% of the population being diagnosed with a sleeping disorder, skyrocketing rates of anxiety, and one in five Canadians accessing the medical system for a health—or a mental health-related—challenge, and that was before the pandemic.”

We now have the opportunity not just to return to normal. Instead, we can reimagine our future and create a life that’s better and healthier.

then progress to the alpha state when brain waves are slower, and we’re at a point of reflection. We ask questions like how, and what?

But it’s the next phase we now need to embrace. Wells wants everyone to trigger those theta waves.

“That’s when you’re daydreaming, taking a walk in the park or breathing in the air and listening to nature around us,” he says. “The brain is just wandering and that’s when we are creative and problem solve. We think about how we want to be living our lives—or our retirement—differently.

It’s often the state when thoughts flow freely without inhibition; it’s possibly the most positive mental state to be in. That’s the magical state for artists who are trying to create a painting or for musicians composing new music or for writers to come up with a new idea for a book. And if we take it a step further, we will hit those magical delta waves and that’s when we fall asleep.”


As we age, we produce less melatonin, the hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycle. The compound interest: if we sleep better, we release growth hormone, which is the fountain of youth. This hormone repairs and regenerates all tissues in our body. This is why when we take time every single day to relax and downshift—just reading a book, listening to music, going for a walk, calling a friend—these 1% changes can make a huge impact on quality of life. At any age, but even more so as we get older.

So, the next time you go out for your walk or run, don’t go out with the idea you have to “crush” it. In this case, being in the moment can help you live a happier and healthier life.

“I believe in the aggregate of the 1% gain,” says Wells. “So, 1% is about 15 minutes of your day. That’s 20 calories in terms of nutrition, or a 15-minute walk or taking time out to read a book or listen to some music.When we add those 1% increments into our lives all of a sudden, we make progress. It works just like compound interest, you don’t really notice the gains, but you’re gradually getting wealthier. It’s this compounding effect that we want to leverage for ourselves, and not just for our investments.”

The 1% reset can also be something as simple as changing up your nutrition. Wells isn’t suggesting suddenly going vegan, but why not introduce one vegetarian meal once a week? “I’m a huge

fan of micro wins that give you momentum and confidence, which ultimately leads you to adding even more of those 1% gains. Over time you end up with these exponential results.”


The COVID-19 era has given us a chance to appreciate the value of rest and recovery and, hopefully, will put us on a new trajectory that we can keep long after this era is over. And, it doesn’t matter where you are in the life cycle.

If there is one message Wells wants to deliver, it is that we are in control of our lives and we can control our energy levels, how we feel, and to some extent our health.

“We can do little things that can make a big difference in our lives,” he says. “I just want people to feel hope and to understand that the little things are accessible to all of us. If you do them consistently, you won’t recognize yourself in six months.”

Embrace this new norm—there is no turning back. You need only be 1% better each day. The days will add up. Start today.

Author: Marylene Vestergom is a Toronto freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and other leading media outlets. Her focus includes health, fitness and lifestyle trends.

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