How to make your life feel a little more 'Midnight in Paris' and a lot less 'Office Space.'
If you’re like most Americans, you feel pretty frazzled a lot of the time. And you’re not alone. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found stress among Americans is on the rise.
Our modern world seems to be moving faster than ever before. We’re busier, more hurried, more distracted, and more stressed … and we know all work and no play not only makes Jack a dull boy, but it also leads to his premature death.
As a society, we’re obsessed with speed — a trend that points to progress and efficiency, which is all well and good, but what’s the point if at the end of being hyper-productive, we aren’t rewarded with more time to enjoy the fruits of our labors? Instead, it seems we’re constantly fast-forwarding to the next task, the next screen, or the next episode on Netflix.
Perhaps this is one reason we’ve embraced revivals of a slower-paced past with intense devotion. Shows such as Mad Men and Downtown Abbey. A big part of the charm of these programs is that they transport us to a bygone age, when no one worried if their cellphone battery was charged, if that work email went through, or if they were being “Catfished” on Tinder.
Our ancestors obviously had their fair share of stressors (as anyone who’s ever played Oregon Trail can attest), but they also indulged in leisurely activities that helped them fully participate in life and truly appreciate their surroundings. With our modern addiction to instant gratification, it seems we’ve lost the joy of looking forward to things.
So here are five suggestions for making life a little more Midnight in Paris and a lot less Office Space:
Take a tech holiday
This one may be obvious, but it’s easier said than done. It doesn’t seem to matter where we are, our first instinct (speaking from experience) is to check our phones.
At a recent event I attended, most attendees were senior citizens, and I noticed no one (besides yours truly) had a phone in sight. The older folks were completely engaged in their environment, content to observe the world around them, chat with one another, and not worry much about what or who wasn’t in the room with them.
Take a page from our elders and try setting aside certain designated times of the day to leave your phone out of arm’s reach. I don’t take my phone with me to the gym or while walking my dog, and I try to leave it upstairs while I eat meals downstairs. I’ve found “out of sight, out of mind,” isn’t just good post-breakup advice, it’s also good for de-stressing and appreciating the here and now.
Creating special occasions, even little ones, can go a long way in uniting people and sweetening life and its relationships. Jane Austen’s Bennett sisters were forced to gather together each afternoon for tea, where they gossiped, bonded, got on each other’s nerves, and, no doubt, created memories the whole family cherished as long as they lived.
A ceremonious cup of afternoon tea, or, even a weekly cocktail hour are pleasant ways to concoct, consume, get collected, and catch up with friends. Gone are the days of chitchats on porches and in parlors, but a once-a-month home-cooked meal with loved ones à la the Waltons is a time-honored tradition that no technology will ever replace.
Phone a friend
“Don’t you ever get tired of texting?” my father sometimes asks me. The answer is, unless it’s an awkward conversation for which I need time to craft the perfect response, yes.
Imagine what would (or would not) have become of George and Mary in It’s a Wonderful Life if Mary had been texting “Hee-Haw Hello Sam”?! I shudder to think.
The quaint art of talking to people, beyond being a time and eye-strain saver, clears up a lot of stress-inducing confusion caused by interpreting text messages. And what’s more, hearing someone’s voice makes communication clearer, stronger, and can even improve your love life. Remember that, though Daisy Buchanan’s face “was sad and lovely with bright things in it … there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget.”
Develop a DIY skill
Mr. Bingley sang the praises of so many “very accomplished” ladies who “all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses.” I don’t really know what any of that means, but I know there are lots of other quiet, worthwhile skills I’d like to find the time to master.
Developing a DIY hobby — something as simple as collecting and pressing flowers, making your own jams, jellies, or potpourrií is fun, useful (little homemade goodies make great gifts!), and has the added advantage of possibly making you more attractive to aloof, haughty, handsome British landowners.
… with pen and paper. Write a letter — a real heartfelt expression of yourself to another person, devoid of abbreviations and limited not by a maximum number of “characters” but by the size of your paper and the endurance of your hand.
So all to say, the next time you find yourself at your wit’s end, stressed out by trying to keep up with the speed of our modern age, take some time to remember the good old days, and incorporate some valuable old-fashioned pastimes like these into your daily routine.