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Nancy Okerlund
Volume 1, Issue 2, 7/30/07

Slow is Beautiful!

One morning a couple weeks ago I woke up early, as usual, and remembered I had no commitments for about 3 hours. It was a weekday and for no particular reason, I suddenly decided to pretend I was on vacation for the next couple hours. So instead of dragging myself out of bed, I just lay there and wondered what would happen next.

What I mean by "dragging" is that even though I consider myself good at getting up early in the morning, quickly, it's never fun. I always wish it could be spread out over about 2 hours. And that's what happened. For awhile I dozed. When I was really awake (I could tell because my eyes were staying open :-)) I daydreamed.

Pretty soon I felt like reading, so I did, for maybe 10-15 minutes. After that was probably another little stretch of wandering thoughts - I don't quite remember - but at some point I knew I wanted to get up, so I did. I continued meandering into the morning and by the time my 3-hour vacation was over, I was a happy camper.

I remember comparing morning routines with my friend Dennis some years ago. (Dennis is an extrovert.) He said he loves getting up in the morning - jumps out of bed and immediately feels ready to roll. I remember not quite believing him. I'm not that much older than Dennis and he has a very busy life - how could he possibly love jumping out of bed?! (And what was I doing wrong?)

That was before I knew about the physical differences between introverts and extroverts. To make a long story (about our brain chemistry and nervous systems) short, research on temperament is showing that even though introverts and extroverts have the same equipment, we use it quite differently.

For instance, introverts rely mainly on the neurotransmitter (brain chemical) acetylcholine. Extroverts use dopamine. Acetylcholine works to slow down the body so the brain can concentrate. Dopamine is about action, movement, pleasure. Dopamine says "If it feels good, do it!" Acetylcholine says, "Let's think about it."

Another difference is that introverts naturally operate more from the part of the autonomic nervous system that's about rest, restoration (it's the parasympathetic, to get technical). Extroverts operate more from the other side of the autonomic nervous system, the one that's in charge of "fight, flight, or fright" (the sympathetic). It's primed for action.

Now, human beings are complex and every person is unique, but what this boils down to is that, in general, introverts have a naturally slower pace than 75% of the population. And we have to be more conscious about moving our bodies than extroverts, because their brains/nervous systems are set up to move, in a sense, automatically. We have to think about it!

And the moral of the story, for introverts? Slow down - and enjoy it!

We live in a fast-moving world that unconsciously expects us all to keep up with it. Even extroverts, who are wired to thrive on stimulation, feel over-stimulated these days. I have a better context to understand how I am in the morning than when Dennis and I compared notes, but I'm still in the process of giving myself permission to find the ways to go at my natural pace.

Slow is beautiful, I say!

End of food for thought, on to practical ideas:

A Practical Idea for Introverts

Think of an activity that often or always feels rushed for you and, on purpose, give yourself the luxury of doing it in an unrushed way. If it feels good, do it that way again sometime.

A Practical Idea for Extroverts

Compare notes with an introvert in your life on morning routines - how you feel, what you like to do, what you don't like to do.

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