The pace of living today can be frantic and overwhelming:
Technological advancements are being made continually, people want things to be better, easier and faster than ever before, and the expectation is that they will get exactly that. We have more and more demands on our time, working longer hours amidst countless distractions, and trying to fit in everything else on our (inexhaustible) to-do lists around that.
It’s no wonder it can leave you struggling to find meaning amongst the many things crying out for your attention, or just simply craving a moment of stillness to pause and check which direction you are going in, as everything rushes on around you.
If you can relate to this you’re not alone. A study undertaken by the mental health foundation in the UK in 2018, found that almost three-quarters of the population had felt overwhelmed and unable to cope at some point during the year. As Rocio Espinoza says in this article about how to become a minimalist and love it:
“There’s so much noise and chaos around us that our minds and bodies are in a constant state of overdrive and stress.”
Rising pressure to succeed, along with heightened stress levels, are resulting in huge numbers of people experiencing burnout, a debilitating state of vital exhaustion.
“Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.”
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The need for Slow
Now, more than ever, it seems to me that the need to slow down is not a lifestyle choice, it is a necessity.
We need to cut back to the core, peel away the distractions and find focus in what matters to us. There, hiding under all the chaos is a beautiful haven of inspiration and wellness.
The ‘Slow movement’ has experienced a boom in popularity in recent years, alongside other less-is-more ideals such as Minimalism, the Tiny House movement, and the Scandinavian concepts of Hygge and Lagom, to name a few. I can’t help but feel this growing interest is down to the fact that people are simply tired of feeling tired and over being overwhelmed.
We crave less excess and more expression, less speed and more spirit. We long for space and simplicity, and Slow living can provide that.
What does it mean to live Slow?
Slow living promotes a return to a simpler pace. It’s a way for you to reconnect and find yourself. To be wholly in the moment and relish it.
It’s about living consciously, slowing your pace and your reactions, and allowing yourself to be fully present and alert, savouring time instead of wishing it away.
Slow living enables you to breathe, creating space rather than filling it. It’s less about doing and more about being.
Being ‘Slow’ doesn’t mean wasting time, but rather appreciating that taking the time to do things well will inevitably result in a more fulfilling experience. It’s about allowing yourself the space to respond and react to things with care rather than haste and ensuring that you make the MOST of your time.
How did the ‘Slow movement’ start?
It is widely agreed that the slow living movement is an evolution from what started in the 1980s as the Slow food movement:
Following the proposed opening of a McDonald’s chain in Rome in 1986, activists led by Carlo Petrini, opposed the ‘fast food’ giants with their own ‘slow food’ movement, defending and promoting regional traditions, good food and the sensory pleasure of eating. (Singing my song…Hmmmm…fooood!)
Later down the line, some clever bods then created an acronym out of the phrase “SLOW food”:
S = Sustainable
L = Local
O = Organic
W = Whole
(See, ‘cause y’know, it makes sense, but also opposed FAST food. See what they did there? Cleverness)
The key emphasis of the Slow food movement was to link the pleasure of food with a commitment to the community and the environment and remains so to this day.
This then was the first established part of what then grew to encompass other areas of the ‘Slow movement’, a phrase which was coined by Carl Honore in his marvellous book: ‘In Praise of Slow – Challenging the Cult of Speed’. Terms such as Slow fashion, Slow money, Slow parenting and Slow travel are now becoming commonplace, as more and more people are choosing to actively embrace a more leisurely pace of life.
“Everywhere, people are discovering that doing things more slowly often means doing them better and enjoying them more. It means living life instead of rushing through it. You can apply this to everything from food to parenting to work.”
Slow living vs Simple living:
Although sometimes confused and referenced interchangeably with intentional living, authentic living and simple living, Slow Living has some subtle differences, although there are common themes underlying all these lifestyles.
Slow living vs Intentional living
Intentional living is about being deliberate with your choices and living your life with purpose, which is certainly an aspect of Slow living, but the emphasis isn’t necessarily on deceleration. You can live intentionally and still live a fast-paced life – although you perhaps shouldn’t, and it is certainly easier to be intentional when you slow it down first, as I discussed in my post on Intentional Living:
That said, I do know plenty of people who would say they live an intentional life who would frankly do anything rather than put the brakes on for a bit… (teaser alert! Find out why in next weeks post….!)
My personal take
I have suffered from anxiety and depression for many years and I can honestly say that the benefits of ‘Slow Living’ are vast and beautiful.
I have tried various different methods to help me deal with these conditions over the years, including exercise, nutrition, acupuncture, herbalism, medication, meditation…and each has helped in its own way – I have found that a combination of these has been the most effective, but only when combined with a healthy backbone of slowness and serenity.
In essence, when things get bad, nothing helps like stepping back and slowing down, and I know when I have inadvertently slipped off the slow wagon because things get bad.
Defining Slow living
“Slow living is about figuring out how to have less so I can be more. It’s about striving not to get more done, but to have less to do. It’s not about working to make ends meet, but working to have less ends. It’s about seeing the abundance of time that I do have, rather than seeing the time I’ve committed to something else. It’s about choosing wisely what and who I’m giving my energy to.”
Brianne Dela Cruz
When I decided to write this series I was contemplating what ‘Slow living’ means to me, as although I believe at its core, it is a simple idea, I think that how we each define Slow living is a little more complex and differs for everyone.
I subscribe to the mailing list of the beautifully poetic Brianne Dela Cruz of Illume co, and in a lovely stroke of serendipity, while I was pondering the meaning of ‘slow’, I received one of her newsletters, which turned out in part to be about the definition of Slow living. Brianne noted her own thoughts with her wonderful sensory take on slow, describing how Slow living looks, feels, smells, tastes and sounds to her, before challenging her readers to express how they define Slow living.
So I thought I’d take leaf out of her book (which I imagine is a pretty one filled with greenery and flowers…) with a sensory journey through my take on what it means to live Slow.
For me, Slow living is:
- Dappled light through a canopy of trees.
- The ribbon curls of steam rising from a hot drink.
- My hands plunged into soil and dirt beneath my fingernails.
- Dancing joyfully with wild abandon.
- A cool breeze on a hot day carrying the scent of the sea.
- Long, luxurious lie-ins curled up in bed with the hubby and kids, reading and relaxing with nothing to do that day.
- The sound of laughter, being with friends and family get-togethers.
- The smell of cinnamon and campfires.
- A clumsy picnic, thrown together out of leftovers and eaten outdoors with our fingers.
- Eating pancakes with bacon and maple syrup and lots of coffee with my besties on All Hallows day.
The heart of my version of Slow living is encompassed by moments like these, joyful and celebratory, warm and fond, spent in the company of those I hold dear. It’s steeped in nature and rooted in the natural world, as here is where I find it easiest to slip into a slower state of being, tuning into the heartbeat and rhythm of the world around me.
Slow living is connection: to myself; to those I hold dear; to nature; to life.
What Slow living is not
While it advocates a return to simplicity, Slow living isn’t about shutting yourself away from the modern world. I am not about to suggest you throw away your digital devices, or quit your job and go live in a cabin in the woods. (although, if you’re anything like me, you’d totally go for that…)
It’s about finding balance. If your work makes you unhappy and stressed, then you should definitely think about how you could improve that, and maybe that will ultimately mean leaving, but in the meanwhile, there are many small and perfect moments in a day waiting for you to notice them. Mindfully go about your day, searching for the joyful pauses. Practice finding the magic in the mundane! If you are ready to start small and dip your toe in the world of slow living, I have a post on ‘Slow Morning Routines for Weekends‘ that might be helpful!
Slow living isn’t about shunning technology either. The access we have to information and education today is incredible and an infinite blessing. The problem comes about when we become dependent on our gadgets and devices or use them to dictate our sense of self-worth.
Constant comparison to others on social media, feeling like we need to jump up and respond the second we receive a notification, checking our phones every few minutes to see if anything has changed… this leaves us feeling out of control and at the mercy of our devices:
You own your phone, it doesn’t own you! Remember, it’s up to you how you use it.
Slow living isn’t about living without. You can still have the things you want, you can live in the world, be tech-savvy, earn money, treat yourself, but do these things because they enhance your life experience, not because you feel you should. The point isn’t to deprive yourself, it’s about creating time and space for the things you love. It’s doing less so you can be more.
It’s not about moving at a snail’s pace and getting nothing done, it’s about choosing which things matter, and spending your time on those. The key is to be present and alive to your experience at all times. Which leads to me to my final, somewhat contradictory point…
Slow can be fast!
I like running. I like dancing. I like roller-coasters. I like riding my bike down hills. Steep ones.
I love the feel of the wind rushing through my hair, I love the exhilaration… Clearly, this isn’t “slow” – this is speed. But I’m sure as heck present and alive to my experience when I’m doing these things, and that is what makes it slow:
See, the word ‘Slow’ can be misleading…it isn’t always about your physical pace. Slow living is not living your life in slow motion…it’s more about the attitude you bring to your day to day life…by thoroughly giving yourself over to the moment, even if the moment itself is fast, the overall pace of your life slows down. You learn to savour the experience rather than rushing through it to the next one. Dance to the beat of your own drum!
You deserve to let yourself breathe, so take your time over the things that need time, be deliberate in your choices, love your life, enjoy the moment, savour it, pause, allow a little space in. Live Slow!
Slow living: Key points
In case you’re a skimmer and scrolled straight to the bottom (which of course you didn’t, because you’re all about the slow now right?) here are some of the key points from this post:
- Slow living is a way to remove the distractions and find focus in what matters to you.
- Slow living is about savouring your time, not wishing it away. Creating time, not wasting it.
- Slow living is about doing less and being more.
- Slow is authentic, simple and intentional (but authentic, simple and intentional are not necessarily slow!)
- Slow living is different for everyone.
- Slow living is sensory. It’s about finding pleasure in all the luscious details of your life.
- Slow living is about connection: To yourself; to those you choose to spend time with; to the moment; to nature; to whatever it is that fills your soul with joy.
- Slow living is about finding balance. It’s not depriving yourself or shunning the modern world, but working with it to achieve a better quality of life.
- Slow living is being alive and present to your experience.
- And finally, Slow can be speedy!
What next? Read: