Live Fast, Die Young: Here’s Why It’s True
Recently, one of the most captivating pieces of writing I came across was titled “On Slowness” by Savala Nolan. In this piece, Nolan recalled her experiences at a charming sandwich shop she used to frequent in Italy. What made this place truly spectacular for her was the presence of a truly gentle, gentleman — who ran the shop all by himself — unrushed and at his own unhurried pace.
Every single task he performed, whether it was taking a customer’s order or wrapping up a delectable sandwich, was executed with utmost care, tenderness, and, above all, a deliberate slowness.
She perceived the gentleman’s slowness as a heartfelt expression of love, a truly gorgeous gesture.
“I understood that [his] slowness was an offering of love, and very beautiful,” Nolan wrote. “Such thoughtful — even chivalrous — slowness feels rare now.”
In that single sentence, I had an epiphany as she perfectly articulated something I had been sensing deep in my core.
Why are we always in a hurry?
I believe most of us live life in a constant hurry, and most of this rushing around is deliberate. We embrace speed to accomplish more, with the belief that being more productive is essential. The prevailing notion is that more is better; less is not enough. Or that the early bird gets the worm, and that means being up and active before others even wake up.
And while there might be some truth in the “grindset” lifestyle — a lot of it is due to our technology and tools rather than our inherent nature. In some ways, we have synchronized our nervous systems with the rhythms and cycles of technology.
Typing and texting are activities that rely on speed, and online reading encourages quick scanning rather than deep immersion. The creators of social media are well aware that we often visit briefly for quick “checks,” not leisurely stays — after all, they designed it that way. As a result, it operates at a rapid pace, nudging us to stay on track and return frequently for updates.
Even Friedrich Nietzsche once observed a shift in his writing style when he transitioned from using a pen and paper to the faster typewriter, a novel invention in his time. He remarked that “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.” Our technologies, consistently pushing us to accelerate, are likely to influence our minds and behaviors to comply with their demands.
I can relate to this phenomenon maybe a little too much. Each day, as I read and compose emails, typing up responses with a sense of urgency, it’s as if I activate a fast-forward mode. My goal is to clear my inbox during the morning hours to create more time for later tasks. However, instead of achieving that, it feels like I’ve entered a speed power-up mode similar to a video game character.
My thoughts race, my speech feels like a YouTube video on x2 speed, and I experience a twitchiness due to heightened tension. I feel listless, with my muscles aching for explosive movement. These reactions are all indications of an escalated activation of the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight-or-flight system, which tends to intensify during stressful periods.
What the Science says
I seriously doubt I’m unique in this experience. And although there is a surprising lack of research on the impact of various online tasks on nervous system activity, a study published in the journal PLOS ONE has discovered a link between problematic internet use and increased sympathetic activation.
Chronic sympathetic activation, which occurs during periods of chronic stress, is connected to numerous health issues that affect modern humans. It turns out conditions like cancer, hypertension, obesity, immune dysfunction, insomnia, depression, and anxiety are all more likely to occur when a person’s sympathetic nervous system remains persistently elevated.
I don’t consider speed itself to be a problem, as exercise often involves fast movements and is linked to better regulation of the sympathetic nervous system. The real issue lies in hurrying and rushing around. It is possible to move swiftly without hurrying. However, spending too much of our lives in a perpetual rush, with our brains and bodies constantly in “go go go” mode, appears to be a huge risk factor for mental, metabolic, vascular, and endocrine dysfunction.
In fact, during the mid-20th century, medical researchers were intrigued by a phenomenon known as “hurry sickness.” They characterized it as “an aggressive and relentless pursuit of accomplishing more and more in less and less time.” They believed that this behavior contributed to heart issues and fostered an unhealthy emotional state.
Nowadays, the term “hurry sickness” has faded from the medical lexicon — but I believe it’s high time we reintroduce and address this concept.
And what’s the antidote, you may ask?
Slow, soft, still…
How to combat hurry sickness:
Choose any evidence-supported form of stress or relaxation therapy — be it meditation, mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, progressive muscle relaxation, or gardening — and you will find a common element: slowness. There’s a reason these activities are good for our minds and bodies.
Each of these activities encourages a decrease in sympathetic nervous system activity, and an increase in parasympathetic nervous system activity, often referred to as the body’s “brake” on the fight-or-flight response.
These practices have gained popularity over the course of collective human history because they counteract the constant rush that has taken over modern life.
Alternatively, a remedy — though not simple to achieve — is to carry out our daily tasks at a calmer and more relaxed pace.
How The Crown helps Calm my Life
One way I do this is by using the Crown everyday in the early morning. It allows me to enter a state of optimal enhanced focus so I can get all my urgent tasks done earlier in the day — rather than relying on sheer willpower to get through.
Then, by the time I’m done working and responding to emails, I feel much calmer and more composed — taking things more slowly and enjoying the rest of the day.
I find that on days where I can’t use the Crown in the morning — for example when I have an important early meeting — work feels much harder and drains my energy. Ironically, I spend hours trying to rush through it all.
But most days, the Crown is my mind’s best friend. It gives me control over my time which takes the anxiety and dread out of difficult tasks.
While we can’t change the rapid pace of technological advancement, we can create and use technology that works with our nature rather than against it.
That’s why I love using the Crown so much.