The speed of my life has decelerated recently. Our baby girl was born two weeks ago—15 days before we expected her.
On the day of her birth, I specifically told a friend, “I don’t even feel near the end of this pregnancy yet.” Boy was I wrong—hours later, I was holding little Emelia.
While recovering in the hospital, I had this sudden feeling that life had paused. It was a welcomed feeling, one that, once I tasted it, I knew I wanted more.
Later that day, I came across a quote that summed up my sentiments:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
While I’ve still never seen the 1980s movie about Ferris Bueller’s day off, I’d read those words before. But last week they hit me in a novel way.
Stop and look around. Life moves fast. You could miss it.
Sounds countercultural, doesn’t it?
Our society conditions us to maximize our time by constantly “doing.” Time is money. Idleness is the root of evil. Claiming busyness has become a merit badge. But if we live in constant motion, what are we missing out on?
Meaningful moments are best soaked in through life’s pauses. But how do we regain presence and slow down the seemingly ever-surging current of life?
Bueller’s solution is a simple one: take a day off.
Easier said than done, you might think. What about all the to-dos, commitments, work responsibilities—anyone can make a reasonable case why taking a day off is impractical. I’d argue it’s crucial.
Studies show that people who take a day off a week:
- Live 10 years longer than the average American.
- Have better mental and physical health.
- Demonstrate increased productivity at work.
- Report better sleep and lower stress levels.
- Show improved short-term memory.
- Display more creative breakthroughs.
- Clearly Bueller was onto something.
Here are 4 reasons to slow down by taking a day off each week:
1. Regain perspective
Many of us, when asked how life’s going, habitually respond “busy.” It used to be my go-to answer, no question. “Busy,” I thought, alluded to my productivity and success. But “busy” made me feel overwhelmed and exhausted.
With some introspection, I realized I wasn’t busy doing things that really mattered. Saying yes to everything, chasing distractions, and trying to do it all left little energy to focus on what mattered.
Taking a day off builds space in your life to regain perspective and refocus on what matters. You reflect on how you’re using your time, and if your actions don’t align with your values, you course correct until they do.
Marc Chernoff said, “Ten years from now it won’t really matter what shoes you wore today, how your hair looked, or what brand of clothes you wore. What will matter is how you lived, how you loved, and what you learned along the way.”
Is your current focus on the things that matter?
2. Foster gratitude
When we choose a life of constant motion, it’s easy to lose our sense of gratitude. When our mind is focused on conquering our next five to-dos, we’re looking forward instead of anchored in the present.
Gratitude is best experienced in the present moment. When we value time as our greatest resource, we can intentionally slow it down. Pausing for a day brings the gifts of ordinary life into focus. And soon, we realize how rich our lives actually are.
In Wayne Muller’s book Sabbath, he said, “What if we were to expand our definition of wealth to include those things that grow only in time— time to walk in the park, time to take a nap, time to play with children, to read a good book, to dance, to put our hands in the garden, to cook playful meals with friends, to paint, to sing, to meditate, to keep a journal. What if we were to live, even for a few hours, without spending money, cultivating time instead as our most precious resource?”
What makes your life rich? Do you regularly express gratitude for those things?
3. Improve relationships
Busyness often prioritizes accomplishments and checklists over people. Yet relationships thrive on quality time.
Imagine being the type of person who really knew the people around you—because you asked intentional questions, made the time to listen, and noted the details of their lives. A day off gives you space and energy to invest in the lives of others in this way.
In Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism, he said, “What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?”
How could a day off improve your relationships?
4. Reduce escapism
When busyness is our default mode, something is often neglected. We can’t do it all, nor are we called to. Often, our own needs get pushed by the wayside, either because we don’t make time to meet them or we are simply out of touch with what they are. This can lead to escape behaviors (or even illness).
How do you distract yourself when overwhelmed? A long social media scroll, Netflix binge, impulse shopping, overindulging in food or drink? No judging here—I’ve done them all. A day off gives you time to meet your needs in a productive way, allows you to see how you’re distracting yourself, and provides needed space to build healthier habits.
Author Donald Miller said, “Right before you die, you’ll realize your whole life was about loving people. And you watched too much television.”
Is the pace of your life one that promotes escapism or love (including self-love)? Why?
If life feels like it’s constantly moving too fast, try taking a day off. Make a day of rest routine.
Maybe you can’t take a complete day off—everyone’s situation is different. Ask yourself what you could do. Even a few hours of intentional rest and slower living provides benefits.
Taking a day off requires a mindset shift, a countercultural one. Instead of focusing on what you need to get done, take that day to focus on being, on resting, and on simply enjoying the people around you.
Once you do, you won’t know how you lived without it.
Let’s remember that life, on its own, moves pretty fast. The choice to stop, look around, and soak in the moments is always ours.
About the Author: Julia Ubbenga is a freelance journalist whose teachings on minimalism, simplicity, and intentional living have reached thousands of people worldwide through her blog richinwhatmatters.com. Julia practices what she preaches in her Kansas City home with her husband, two extremely lively young daughters, and one-year-old son.