Benefits of Slowing Down

When you get mad at someone, what do you do? You might confront the situation head-on, retreat, or decide never to talk to them again, perhaps even plot revenge.

Typically, you react to the emotional trigger automatically, following your instinct. But how many of us tell ourselves to slow down, observe the situation, and figure out the best response for the desired outcome? Probably not many because when our emotions are aroused, we feel a strong urge to act immediately.

However, slowing down, even though it’s very difficult, offers tremendous benefits—more than you might think. This act of slowing down has a surprising power to enhance relationships with others and eventually enrich your life.

Cover of In this blog, we will explore the tool that does just that. I learned this tool from the book, The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness” by Robert Waldinger M.D. and Marc Schulz Ph.D. Having used this tool in several situations, I’ve noticed better outcomes. So, let’s dive in and see how you can also benefit from this tool.

What Are the Ingredients of a Good Life?

What makes a good life? It’s a broad question, difficult to answer, especially since we haven’t finished our lives yet, making it hard to look back and conclude. But, fortunately, we can refer to a long scientific study for answers.

According to Waldinger M.D. and Schulz Ph.D., one key ingredient is good relationships. They highlight the significance of nurturing deep, meaningful connections for a good life. These relationships, especially with those closest to us, are not just beneficial; they are fundamental to our well-being and happiness.

Now reflect for a moment on your relationships with your spouse, parents, children, siblings, in-laws, friends, and extended family members. Could they be better? Like many, you might recall times you reacted hastily, wishing later for a chance to rewind. And perhaps, you feel that some relationships are destined to remain strained.

However, Waldinger and Schulz assure us it’s never too late to change our relationships with others.

Mastering Emotional Reactions: The Power of Thinking

As mentioned earlier, our reaction to an emotional trigger is typically automatic. But then, are we mere puppets to our emotions? Only if we allow it. We have a powerful tool at our disposal to change the emotions we experience in any situation: our thought process.

Waldinger and Schulz explain that during emotional events, our reactions often unfold so rapidly that we feel at the mercy of our emotions. However, our emotions are significantly influenced by our thinking more than we realize.

By altering your thinking—how you interpret an event—you can transform your emotional experience and, ultimately, your response. It’s not the emotions themselves that dictate our reactions but our thought process toward those events.

The WISER Model to Slow Down: Transform Reflexive to Reflective

So, how can you change your thought process in any given event?

When you encounter a stressor and your emotions start to boil, the first action to take is to push the PAUSE button. This prevents you from making a reflexive response that you might regret later or that does not bring you the desirable outcome. It’s challenging, but just pause.

After you push the PAUSE button, you move through stages: Watch, Interpret, Select, Engage, Reflect, as outlined in the WISER model.

 

1st Stage: Watch 

Observe the situation and yourself. Try to collect as much information as you can to understand the context fully. Also, pay attention to your feelings and bodily reactions.

 

2nd Stage: Interpret 

Identify what’s at stake for you. It’s common to feel emotional when something important is involved; if it weren’t, you likely wouldn’t care as much. So ask yourself why you’re getting emotional and pinpoint what is so critical about the situation for you.

 

Stage 3: Select 

Now, choose a strategy that will most likely help you achieve the desired outcome or meet your goal. Consider running through various scenarios in your mind to determine the best approach.

 

Stage 4: Engage 

Once you’ve decided on a strategy, it’s time to implement it. Before you take action, however, practice it in your mind or with someone you trust. This preparation can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of your response.

 

Stage 5: Reflect 

After taking action, take some time to reflect on the outcome and the lessons learned. You might feel inclined to skip this stage, but it’s a critical part of the process. Through reflection, you can adjust your mental framework or model, improving your approach for similar situations in the future.

Conclusion

Many of us feel the urge to react automatically when we’re upset, angry, or frustrated. By doing so, you might feel momentarily justified or even victorious. But upon reflection, if you ask, “Did I get the result I wanted?” or “Did that help to cultivate good relationships?”, the answer is often no. Regret over our actions is common.

But now, you have a powerful tool at your disposal to better navigate such situations.

Remember, when you encounter a stressful situation and notice your emotions getting the better of you, push that PAUSE button.

Then proceed with the WISER model: Watch, Interpret, Select, Engage, and Reflect. In each stage, be aware of the various options available to you. Using the WISER model helps us not only to slow down but also to make decisions that foster better relationships and contribute to a good life—the core of what we all seek.

Let’s embrace this model and strive to be wiser, cultivating strong, healthy relationships that are essential to our well-being and happiness. After all, it’s these connections that form the foundation of a truly good life.