For those of us who have been living life in the fast lane for ages, the thought of slowing down and slow living is a scary thing. All of us have been conditioned to believe that the only path to success is by hustling hard, being busy all the time, multitasking, and staying up all night, giving everything our all.
It has been passed on from one generation to the next that for one to succeed, you have to compete brutally and endlessly to get ahead. It is often intimidating to even think about starting slow living. Often because it simply seems too difficult to even begin contemplating slowing down.
Business coach and podcast host Kayte Ferris of Simple and Season has a very practical and relatable way of perceiving slow living:
“Slow living is just living slowly, in whatever and however way that means to you. It’s about knowing and passionately loving the things we value, and designing our lives to spend the most time possible enjoying them. It’s about having intentionality and consciousness in our activities, about escaping the mindless scrolling and unproductive multi-tasking and focusing on purposeful action. It’s about embracing the fact that you’re not doing it all – it’s about doing less, but better.”
While it might go against the grain of our typical version of effective and efficient modern living, slow living really does mean a more meaningful life.
As the Chinese proverb goes “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Today is definitely the best time to begin transitioning to a slower, more meaningful life. Here are 10 simple ways that can help you make that change happen:
1. Set your intention for the day first thing in the morning
Our typical impulse upon hearing the morning alarm is to rush to the shower, get dressed in a hurry, shove breakfast down while flipping through the morning paper and then get out the door to work. However, even just one minute of slowing down, embracing a pause, and setting intentions can make a hugely positive change in our day.
If you can, set your alarm clock 10 or even 15 minutes earlier, and as you open your eyes, stay in bed for a while or if you prefer to get up and about, then find yourself a peaceful corner to sit down for a moment. Then, quietly, focus on your breathing and set your intentions for the day.
You can do this by thinking of your top priorities or simply by repeating a mantra. For example, “Today, I am doing my best for myself and my family.” or “I am a being of love. I will make today meaningful.”
Through setting intentions as you wake up, you are guided by what matters the most to you, and not simply focussed on the impulses to achieve and attain results.
2. Let your bath or shower time be sacred
Bathing is a form of cleansing. Not only does it wash your body and skin, but it is the perfect moment of renewal. Shower time can also be used as a time to be at one with yourself and an opportunity to gain clarity for the day.
For many of us, shower time is a rushed habitual act, but if you use your time in the shower or bath purposefully it will bring you steady, calm serenity.
Find delight in the beautiful aromas of your soap and shampoos and enjoy the way the water feels against your skin, appreciate the luxury of beautifully perfect water at exactly the right temperature.
Enjoying a shower doesn’t have to mean long showers, but a deep appreciation for the simple act of showering will undoubtedly leave you invigorated and renewed.
3. Savour your food
While there is an entire slow food movement out there, you really don’t have to get right down to the grassroots movement to enjoy your food and the nourishment it provides.
While it may sound like quite a petty thing, simply chewing your food more completely is one of the best components of slow living. According to Healthline, chewing your food properly and slowly helps you to not over eat. Chewing for longer and swallowing your food slowly also helps your body absorb more nutrients. The Chopra Centre recommends that eating mindfully is a great step towards better well-being and one of the best steps to take is: “Chew slowly and thoroughly, and notice your body’s fullness signals. Take a few minutes after your meal to sit and digest.”
In other words, be discerning about what you eat and when, savour whatever food or drink you decide on. Take your time and enjoy every morsel that has been prepared and presented in front of you.
4. Set a time limit for digital updates
Have you noticed how addictive social media is? Do you also feel anxious and stressed when you hear the ‘binging’ notifications from your phone? In these modern times, smart phones seem to rule our lives.
From the start of the day right until we jump in to bed, we are constantly glued to our phones – browsing, responding, clicking here and there. This need to stay connected is taking us away from the power of stillness and silence. Our minds are continuously ticking with often unnecessary information and incessant updates. It creates an intensely negative impact on our lives, cluttering our thoughts and creating stress and tension.
To start, turn off your automatic notifications. Really that photo of the cute kitten kissing the dog, or that video the whale orchestra while uplifting is certainly not an essential update worth interrupting your peaceful day for.
Slow living means assigning more value to taking your time and enjoying every little moment.
Setting a time limit for digital updates – say, twice or thrice a day for only 10 minutes at a time can help you use your time more wisely and truly use it for activities that allow you to connect to others and yourself.
5. Begin walking
In a world full of cars and other forms of motorised transport, walking is often sidelined as the slow cousin of inefficiency, yet taking a walk will help you regain a sense of natural rhythm.
Whether it’s walking to work, a simple morning stroll or even a quick, brisk walk during your lunch break Harvard Health emphasisesthe beneficial impacts of walking for heart health.
In walking, you become more aware of the world you live in, the people who form part of your community, the going-ons and the activities. As you walk more, you begin to view the world through different lenses, wonders in your own neighbourhood and the beauty of the seasons changing.
Simply slow down by walking for 15 minutes instead of driving for 3, take a slow stroll instead of a brisk jog, stop to say ‘hello’ instead of a quick dash and a wave. Living more slowly is truly about being more connected in this our disconnected world, and there’s nothing easier than to begin in your own community.
6. Spend time in nature
For those of us who are locked up in tall, concrete jungles all day long, we forget that the natural world thrives on its own rhythm that is self-sustaining. The sun rises and sets each day and the natural world flows with the circadian rhythm. The birds and insects seem to inherently know what time of the day it is.
Spending just two hours a week outside in nature is associated with better well-being and health. In essence, time spent outdoors in nature is likely to reduce cognitive demands on both our minds and our bodies, allowing us time and space to slow down and think – mind space.
Simply observing nature’s interactions while you are immersed in it, is an invaluable way to slow down. Notice how the leaves move with the breeze, and the birds sing to one another, how little plants thrive and how stately and majestic age-old trees are.
Observe how, no matter what happens, life blossoms in the face of withering and decay – the natural cycle of life and living. Nature, unlike human life, does not race or hurry, yet as with all important things, it gets to exactly where it needs to be, at exactly the right time. We certainly have much to learn from Nature about living better and living well.
7. Be present
Have you ever noticed how, when someone is talking to you and at some point, you check out of the conversation and begin wondering ‘What’s for lunch?’ or ‘What else do I have to do to get that job finished?’
A core principle in slow living is simply being present. Being present, for a lot of us in our hurried lives seems like a complete luxury. We believe that the more we are able to multi-task and able to accomplish the better off we will be. Yet the reality is the more we try to accomplish, the less we actually get done. Being fully present is the antidote.
To be able to generously give another your full undivided attention, regardless of the activity or conversation is really simply etiquette and good manners. To truly listen, to really pay attention, to give focus to someone or something else other than your own needs and desires, that is what it means to be truly present.
Begin slow living by simply being present for your loved-ones. Listen intently, hold hands, be a shoulder to cry on. Open your heart to loved-ones: tell them stories, attend gatherings, and make sincere moments. Longevity has been connected to having healthy relationships. And remember that it is through feeling connected that we feel seen and loved.
8. Meet like-minded people
It has often been said that we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. Yet when all around you and chasing a dream and running the race, you may find yourself the odd one out when you decide that it’s far more important to pause for a moment, to relax and reset.
Beginning a new life of slow living can be a challenging but know that you are not alone on the journey.
Make an effort to meet like-minded people: join groups online or reach out to people who are slow living veterans or those who are also about to start.
You can also follow blogs, podcasts, and websites that focus on slow living. Through this, you can pick up tips from those who are already leading a slow life, and you can have insightful and inspiring exchanges.
You can also get in touch with slow-living groups and communities in your city or area that host local gatherings and talk. It is through learning from each other that we become empowered encouraged to begin a new way of living.
9. Be gentle with yourself
One of the biggest challenges of slow living is to be able to be okay with being unproductive. Our typical lives have been run and focussed on results, objectives and outcomes, so much so that guilt takes over whenever we take some time out to pause and take a breath.
No matter how well deserved a break, it is typical to feel like we need to be doing more, achieving more, not letting time get the better of us, to keep hustling, yet at the heart of slow living is the emphasis to rest and relax.
Be sure that slowing down and taking time to actually live is not complacency, in fact it is very much the opposite. It is an emphasis on the ability to live purposefully, to be present in each and every moment of every day.
To be able to be ok with slowing down and doing less, we must also learn to love and appreciate ourselves, as we are. To know and to understand that we are worthy despite not having accomplished or achieved anything significant or what we previously perceive to be of value and valuable.
Let go of achievements and accomplishments for now, pare back on your to-do lists, stop for a while and learn to be ok with doing or accomplishing nothing. Let your spirit breathe deeper and be completely in the moment. Let your body rest and relax and realign with what your heart really needs.
10. Just say ‘no’
One of the biggest lessons almost everyone has to learn is that it is really ok to say ‘No’. Each and every one of us believe that we thrive on helping others, rising to challenges, accepting more responsibility, yet when it really comes down to it, the majority of the things we say ‘Yes’ to does not actually bring more joy.
In fact, we say ‘Yes’ out of a sense of obligation, the hidden, inherent need to feel that we are ‘doing the right thing’. Yet we hardly ever ask, ‘Doing the right thing for whom?’
Learning to say ‘No’ is difficult at first, yet when you learn to do it well, you are really learning to honour yourself, your time and your own worthiness. You are learning to put yourself and your needs first. So that when you feel ready, willing and eager to say ‘Yes’ you are doing so whole-heartedly and fully invested.
Slow living is at its heart a way to live more fully and holistically as the person you are meant to be. Not drawn or distracted, pushed or pulled by another’s desires or society’s demands. Slow living means learning to be wholly and completely yourself, in a lifestyle that allows you to take your time over meaningful things and find joy in the little things in life.
Take your time.