Living through a pandemic has been so many things. It’s been challenging, heartbreaking, and stressful. But, it’s also been eyeopening. For most people it’s something we’d never wish to repeat – but for others it’s been a welcome reprieve from the relentlessness of a hectic schedule. Slow living has been thrust upon us all, and while some have struggled with it and resisted all the way through, many have also relaxed and leaned into it.
While slow living might currently be a bit of a trend, it’s one I see sticking around, and for good reason. People want to learn more about it, what it means, its benefits, and how it can be applied to their own lives. So I thought I’d put together some info for anyone wanting to incorporate slower living into their lives….
Slow Living – the Positive Legacy of Lockdown?
I love a nice bit of symmetry and ironically, slow living originated in Italy in the 80’s – the same European city to first suffer from COVID.
In a society where fast-paced living is the norm and, if not quite aspired to, nonetheless admired – the reality of lockdowns has enforced a much-needed assessment of how we live our lives. And while a return to normality is something the vast majority of us are looking forward to, the truth is that slower living will be missed.
So going forward, how can you actively incorporate slow living into your lifestyle, for a more balanced and meaningful existence?
What Exactly Does Slow Living Mean?
Slow living is the concept of taking a slower approach to all aspects of life.
It’s based around the idea that moving through life at a frantic pace with minimal downtime scheduled into our busy calendars is not doing us any favours, and in fact harms our ability to live a content and fulfilled life. After all, you wouldn’t associate being at peace with chaos and rushing around; in fact, it’s almost the very opposite.
If you crave a calm and meaningful life – and really why else are we here? – then living slowly is a great place to start.
The Benefits of Slow Living
Why should you explore the slow living movement? Here are just a few of the reasons that my family has bought into it:
- Increased appreciation and gratitude,
- More relaxed pace of life,
- Quieter schedule,
- More time doing the things that bring joy,
- Fewer obligations,
- Increased productivity,
- Greater sense of peace,
- Deeper connections,
- Improved wellbeing.
The Art of Living Slowly
Thanks to lockdown, many of us have been living more slowly without actively making efforts to do so – we’ve had no other option available to us. But this means that it would be very easy to fall straight back into that frenetic busyness from before if we’re not mindful of avoiding doing so.
If you like the idea of continuing to live at a slower pace, these tips will help you to build your routines around the movement, and ensure it becomes your default mindset going forward.
Before long you won’t even have to think about it, slow living will have become a way of life.
What Does Slow Living Look Like?
1. Savouring hours and minutes instead of counting them
As you begin to slow down and switch off from external pressures vying for your attention, you’ll notice a shift in your mood as you become more present. Instead of allowing your mind to race ahead to the next thing, you’ll start to notice the small things around you, and how beautiful they are when you focus on them.
Your priorities will shift from achieving for the purpose of ticking a chore off your to-do list, to being mindful and enjoying the moment.
In this way, living slowly buys you more time.
2. Reducing stress
Getting off the draining treadmill of a widely accepted but chaotic society, and instead immersing yourself in the simple pleasures of life, removes pressure, expectation, and ultimately stress.
A more relaxed approach to life brings so many benefits for your wellbeing, both mentally and physically too.
Your days will suddenly become filled with small pockets of unexpected joy.
3. Practicing mindfulness
Rather than moving through life on autopilot, living slowly encourages mindfulness, meaning you are more present to breathe in your surroundings. Taking the time to experience what is around you is a really effective way to centre yourself, be more calm, and feel at peace.
4. Being intentional with your time
It’s so easy to simply go with the flow, but in some circumstances it’s harmful to our wellbeing.
One of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to our overall wellness is putting healthy boundaries in place. Being intentional with your time means identifying what’s important to you, and aligning the way you spend our time with those things that bring you happiness.
The very best way to do this? Learning to say no!
Emptying your schedule of everything that feels like a chore is liberating, and makes space for more of the things which bring you joy.
5. Living sustainably
Living in a way that is less about convenience and more about caring for the planet we’re borrowing is a great way to practice living more slowly. Not only does it benefit the environment, it’s also brilliant for building self-worth, and a sense of fulfilment.
6. Supporting slow fashion with conscious consumerism
Fast fashion is terrible for the environment and, sadly, easy to perpetuate – yet it’s so simple to avoid.
Being conscious in our choices as a consumer means any combination of the following:
- Buying secondhand,
- Buying ethically produced clothing,
- Buying quality items which are designed to last.
7. Discovering the joy of slow travel
Instead of rushing around to see every far-flung corner of a city or country when you travel, slow travel means exploring at a leisurely pace and savouring the things in the immediate area. Walking or cycling instead of taking public transport or driving, and simply soaking up the atmosphere and everything on offer close by are examples of embracing slow travel.
8. Participating in the slow food movement
Slow food is actually where living slowly originated. In fact, a descriptive acronym was created around the original meaning:
The slow food movement developed in response to the consumerist fast food market, and is simply about promoting a cleaner, fairer, more ethical way of eating.
Easy ways to incorporate this into daily life include buying local, organic produce and choosing to be vegetarian or vegan. Or, if you’re not prepared to give up meat completely, then try having a few meat-free days or building several veggie meals into your diet each week.
9. Engaging in slow parenting
Slow parenting might not be for everyone, but it makes a lot of sense to me.
Every time our family takes a trip anywhere and my husband becomes animated about all the things we should see and do, I find myself gently reminding him that for everyone’s enjoyment, we should:
Keep. It. Simple.
This is beneficial for the whole family – it’s less stressful for us, and it places fewer expectations on our young daughters, which helps them to remain in a better mood. It prevents us all from becoming exhausted and burned out, which defeats the object of taking a trip in the first place!
This, for me, embodies slow parenting. It’s really the idea of avoiding being swept up in arranging numerous activities for our children which can result in an over-full schedule and lead to overwhelm. Little people need downtime to relax, and they need to be allowed time to get bored too!
Boredom is what sparks creativity in kids.
Our girls are definitely happier having plenty of chill-time at home, which reiterates my point about learning lessons from the pandemic. While there’s undoubtedly too much of a good thing and it’s important to find a healthy balance, for the most part they’ve thrived in that regard.
10. Living holistically
For me, slow living is a holistic approach including the wellbeing of the mind, body, and soul:
I don’t personally consider myself as spiritual in terms of religion or the divine, but I absolutely believe in the power of practicing mindfulness and gratitude, feeling at one with nature, and living a profound and meaningful life. My understanding is that this is actually a new expanded meaning of what it is to be spiritual, and I’m definitely on board with that!
11. Building connections
As an extension of living holistically, building and nurturing connections is also pivotal to the slow living movement. This includes as a community, with nature, with culture, with work, and with ourselves.
Each of these connections is vital to our wellbeing as sentient beings, and an absence or lack in any of these areas will negatively impact on our fulfilment in life.
How Do I Start Slow Living? My Top Tips For Living Slowly
1. Step away from the fast living mindset
This can be tricky to start with, especially if you have a to-do list the length of your arm. But that’s sort of the point – that list is a millstone around your neck. While many of the tasks are of course important, some will be inconsequential. The fast living mindset of juggling chores, achieving everything and ticking every box is so ingrained that it’s become the default for most people.
But it’s not healthy.
It’s necessary to recognise that this is what we’re doing before we can slow down. Here’s a practical activity to help:
- Write down everything on your mind that you need to get done. This will remove the mental load of juggling thoughts and being afraid of allowing them to be forgotten – one of the greatest sources of stress for busy parents.
- Next, cross through anything that doesn’t need to be on the list. Remember to be intentional, and that it’s okay to set boundaries to preserve your wellbeing.
- Take another look at your list. Do you really need to do all of the things there? You might be surprised at how ruthless you could choose to be.
I’m not suggesting letting people down, but be mindful of not over-committing in the future.
For example, when a friend is unwell or in trouble, I always make a point of not paying lip service when many people would. I will not say ‘call me if you need anything’ unless I know I can spare or make the time. Because I don’t want to let anyone down, and I don’t want to cause myself aggravation I don’t have the mental or physical energy for.
This means that on those occasions I do say it, I mean it with my whole heart.
2. Schedule in slow living
It may sound silly, but scheduling in time to do nothing is vital in this busy world! Demands are placed on us all the time, and if we don’t protect our time it will be eaten up.
For this very reason I find myself feeling very stressed when certain family members pull out their diary and try to schedule in dinners or meet ups – I prefer to keep things a little more open, or at least not have too many plans in my diary. In this sense lockdown has been a bit of a relief for me!
I generally try to keep one day at the weekend free, so we have the option to make spontaneous plans – or not.
This is how I assert the boundaries that I and my family need for chill time.
3. Shop local and organic
The pandemic has been both a blessing and a curse for this one. For those shops that have been allowed to remain open, many have seen business boom. Of course there are many more which have suffered greatly.
Wherever possible, shopping locally and organically is a brilliant element of slow living, which supports small businesses and the local community, and more often than not is also a more ethical and sustainable way to shop.
For a lot of people this will be a novel way to shop because we’ve become so accustomed to the convenience of doing our weekly shop in a single location, whether in person or online. Of course more recently that’s also been a safer way to shop too.
But, as life begins to return to normal, making it a priority to use the local bakery and butchers, for example, can be easy tweaks to make to our routines.
It might also be part of a larger shift in mindset, away from convenience foods and towards more mindful meal planning, preparing wholesome foods, sitting around the table with our families, and enjoying quality time together. That environment is proven to have huge benefits for children, and regularly making that scenario a priority is critical to nurturing family bonds.
4. Take up slow hobbies
Making time for slow hobbies is an excellent way of scheduling in that slow time I mentioned.
Slow hobbies are anything that require your full attention, to necessarily force you to practice mindfulness by being fully present and focused on the task at hand. Some lovely examples of slow hobbies might be:
- Flower arranging
5. Practice mindfulness
Everything about slow living points to mindfulness – it practically means the same thing – and that’s why I love it.
Mindfulness can be practiced in different forms, but some of my personal favourites include:
- Spending the at our local RHS garden which never fails to help me ‘recalibrate’,
- Performing yoga flows
Something I’d not previously considered before typing out that list is that each of those helps me with building some of the connections I mentioned earlier…
Strolling in beautiful outdoor spaces allows me to feel immersed in nature; yoga practice forges connection with my own body and requires absolute mental concentration; and journaling is how I connect with and process my thoughts and feelings.
Perhaps, then, when thinking about mindfulness, it’s a good idea to consider what activities meet these different needs for you, and make time for all of them.
The Meaning of Slow Living
It’s important to remember that slow living doesn’t just mean doing everything slowly.
It means doing everything at the right speed; rejecting overwhelm; getting comfortable saying no; building in quiet time to reflect and recharge.
Slow living is about balance.
Slow Living Quotes
Set expectations for yourself that are not based on what you believe everyone else is doing.Julie Hage
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.Lao Tzu
Slow living is less of a style and more a deeply personal mentality.Nathan Williams
For fast acting relief, try slowing down.Lily Tomlin
Once she stopped rushing through life, she was amazed how much more life she had time for.Unknown
The cost of a thing is the amount of life which is required to be exchanged for it.Henry David Thoreau
We may feel productive when we’re constantly switching between things, constantly doing something, but in all honesty, we’re not. We’re just distracted.Leo Babauta
Most people’s minds are almost always too busy for them to feel their skins being caressed by the wind or the sun.Mokokoma Mokhonoana
Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list.Patti Digh
The slow philosophy is not about doing everything in tortoise mode. It’s less about the speed and more about investing the right amount of time and attention in the problem so you solve it.Carl Honoré
Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time’ try saying ‘it’s not a priority,’ and see how that feels… I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: ‘I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.’ ‘I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.’ If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.Laura Vanderkam
…to be slow means that you govern the rhythms of your life. You are in control of deciding how fast you have to go.Carlo Petrini
Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.Leo Babauta
Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.Eckhart Tolle
Simplicity is not about deprivation. Simplicity is about a greater appreciation for things that really matter.Unknown
Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.Eddie Cantor
Slow living isn’t about determining how little we can live with – it’s about working out what we simply can’t live without.Nathan Williams
Slow down in your pursuit of happiness and it’s more likely to catch up with you.Ernie J Zelinski
If you’re always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one you’re in? Slow down and enjoy the moment you’re in and live your life to the fullest.Nanette Mathews
The things that matter most should never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.Goethe
The new disease of our age is being OK doing everything at exactly the same time.Nigel Cumberland
The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections–with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds.Carl Honoré
Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.Lin Yutang
In order to seek one’s own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life.Plato
Be a curator of your life. Slowly cut things out until you’re left only with what you love, with what’s necessary, with what makes you happy.Leo Babauta
Slow living is a curious mix of being prepared and being prepared to let go. Caring more and caring less. Saying yes and saying no. Being present and walking away. Doing the important things and forgetting those that aren’t.Brooke McAlary
These quotes are taken from some of the great philosophists of our time, as well as some more recent names in the world of slow living. If you’re interested in further reading on the subject, you may be interested in the following:
Slow Living Reading
What aspects of living slowly appeal to you? Do you plan to carry slow living forward into life after the pandemic?