Slow living is an ode to a purposeful and meaningful lifestyle devoid of pretence. Here’s how to embrace it with grace and ease.
Last week, after a rather hectic couple of months, I decided to try out slow living, and dare I say, I very much enjoyed it. No, it isn’t about lounging on your sofa all day long, binge watching your favourite series on Netflix or doing nothing the whole day.
The concept of slow living is a bit more nuanced than that. It is about deliberately slowing down to curate a lifestyle where mindfulness and a better use of your time and resources help you to live on purpose and improve your health and productivity to achieve more meaningful impact in important areas of your life.
In a world where being busy and living a fast-paced life has become a status symbol to justify our place in society, our raison-d’être in the world, how can you intentionally choose to adopt a slower pace of life and still achieve your personal and professional goals? Let’s find out together.
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What is Slow Living?
The modern concept of slow living originates from the Slow Movement. In the 1980’s, the Slow Movement that can be traced back to Carlo Petrini and a group of activists in Italy was started to preserve regional culinary heritage and traditions and to promote a slow pace of life.
The campaign movement was triggered by the desire to prevent the opening of a MacDonald’s fast food restaurant in Piazza di Spagna, a tourist hotspot in Rome’s city centre.
The Movement evolved over the years and expanded over 160 countries to encompass Slow Food, Slow travel, and Cittaslow (Italian word for slow town or city) just to name a few, as a way to combat the high level of stress and consumerism of modern-day living.
Slow living is an invitation to a greater quality of life where self-care, a more considerate approach to consumption, how we spend our time and resources, and how we connect to each other and our environment for more meaningful life experiences take precedence.
Although adopting a slower pace of life may sound very “New Age” and bourgeois for many, this could not be further from the truth. Slow living has more to do with embracing a lifestyle that supports your health and wellbeing, your productivity and appreciation for the simple things in life that you may take for granted. Here are a few hacks to put it into practice for a few days or a new life season wherever you are.
1. Have a Spiritual Practice
Start the day with your spiritual practice. This is a way for you to prepare your mind to face the day with courage, patience, and fortitude.
Take time at least once a day to pray to thank God (or whatever Higher Power you believe in) for the new day He has blessed you with to be better and to do better.
Ask Him for daily directions and to keep you focused with a grateful attitude and a positive mindset for the day, regardless of the challenges or the odds that lay ahead.
Listen to short motivational speeches and inspirational music to get your mindset ready to face and overcome the obstacles that you will encounter during the day.
2. Prioritise Presence Over Productivity
Slow living encourages us to be fully present in each moment. Rather than constantly chasing the next goal, relish the beauty of the now. Engage with your surroundings, immerse yourself in conversations, and savour the flavour of your meals.
Give yourself the grace to show up for yourself when you eat a meal all by yourself or with your loved ones instead of aimlessly letting your mind race through so many things on your to-do-list.
Make a conscious effort to be fully present during the few minutes’ break you have set aside to feed your body alone or with a group of friends or family members. Be in the here and now.
3. Cultivate Mindfulness
Mindfulness involves paying deliberate attention to the present moment without judgement. Incorporate mindfulness practices such as a five or ten-minute meditation, deep breathing exercises, or mindful walking into your daily routine.
These gentle activities compel you to reconnect with your body and mind and refocus your energy and attention back to how you feel and think in the moment. They help clear your mind and spirit and gradually relax you and release accumulated stress in different parts of your being.
4. Create Space for Reflection
Allocate time for self-reflection. Journaling, quiet walks, or meditation sessions can help you gain clarity on your values, aspirations, and the direction you want to take in your personal, professional endeavours, and business ventures.
Take time to organise your life or plan your next career or business move by setting aside some time to strategise, plan, and reflect on your situation, and explore what the next best step for you looks like.
Take the habit to isolate yourself for a few minutes, hours, days, if necessary to dig deep into your mind, do your inner work, and come back refreshed to face up to life challenges with greater clarity, focus, and a renewed mindset.
5. Unplug and Disconnect
Regularly disconnect from digital distractions. Digital detox is a must in this age when we allow ourselves to be constantly bombarded by social media news of beautifully curated lives or the onslaught of negativity in the mainstream media.
So, each day, designate specific times for screen-free activities, especially during your working hours and when you want to spend quality time alone or with people you cherish. This will allow you to fully engage with the tangible world around you.
6. Nourish Your Body with Wholesome Food
Cut down on fast-food and drinks and processed meals for the sake of your health. These can only take you so far. Slow down your eating habits as well.
Choose nourishing, whole foods and savour each bite. Cooking with intention and relishing the process can also be a meditative practice; consider trying it out once in a while to see how it goes for you.
7. Cut Down Clutter
Declutter your physical and mental space. Yes, that’s right – kiss goodbye to the frivolous items and junk information that you store up in the confinements of your home and mind.
Simplify your surroundings and let go of unnecessary possessions like the pair of jeans that no longer fit you but that you keep holding onto. Create a serene home environment with tactile materials and lots of natural fabrics that foster peace of mind.
8. Cultivate Daily Gratitude
Develop a habit of gratitude. Regularly acknowledge and appreciate the blessings in your life. A gratitude journal can be a powerful tool for cultivating this mindset.
Even if you are busy like hell, take at least a minute or two each day to say out loud or write down at least five things you are grateful for. This approach is a way for you to count your blessings and remember the good things in your life even in the midst of storms.
9. Practise Deep Listening
Engage in conversations with genuine interest. Practise deep listening by giving your full attention to the speaker, without anticipating your response.
Pay attention to the body language and the verbal and non-verbal cues of the person you are having a conversation with to fully appreciate the message s/he is trying to convey. Remember that listening to someone is more than what the person is saying. It is also about how the message is being delivered through the tone of voice, the words chosen, and the accompanying gestures.
10. Engage in Slow Movement
Whether it’s yoga, tai chi, or leisurely walks, embrace movements that allow you to connect with your body and breath, promoting a sense of calm and groundedness.
By practising these activities, you will be able to better connect with your body, and to know when your body and mind are giving you their best, when you need rest, and when they signal an underlying pain or discomfort that requires your attention. Basically, these slow movement activities will be the conduit that will keep you in touch with your inner and outer being.
11. Set Boundaries
“No” is a complete sentence that requires no further explanation. Learn to say “no” when necessary from a place of love and respect for yourself and others.
Setting boundaries is a way to protect your time and energy to ensure you focus your attention on the life-enhancing activities that help improve your own life and that of the people you care about.
Setting boundaries is a form of self-care that helps you establish a personal code of conduct for yourself. What you should and shouldn’t tolerate, and how to limit the time, money, and energy you spend on activities and with people that do not bring the best out of you.
12. Prioritise Restful Sleep
Make sleep a priority. Create a bedtime routine that encourages relaxation and ensures you get the restorative rest your body and mind need. Working all hours of the day with minimal to no sleep or indulging in far too many aimless night parties and leisurely activities are recipes for disaster.
On the other hand, maintaining a healthy sleep routine helps protect your mental and physical health and ensure you are ready to embrace the day with a more resilient attitude.
13. Immerse Yourself in Nature
Spending time in natural settings is a cornerstone of slow living. Take walks in the park, hike through the woods, or simply sit in a garden and connect with the rhythms of the earth.
If you can afford it (and are not allergic to grass), throw a few solo or group picnics in your backyard garden or your local park during the warmer seasons to savour time in nature.
Enjoy a trip to the beach if you can afford it, and spend time swimming in the outdoors and exploring your seaside surroundings. Alternatively, take a trip to the countryside, and spend time with your family in a vineyard or camping in a national park or a tiny forest.
14. Engage in Creative Expression
Nurture your creativity. Engage in soothing activities like painting, writing, or playing a musical instrument. These pursuits provide an outlet for self-expression and promote a sense of flow. They also help develop greater focus and attention to details as you create a piece of poetry, a song, or a DIY artwork.
15. Embrace Imperfections
Through the “wabi-sabi” lifestyle philosophy, the Japanese believe in seeing beauty in imperfections and honouring the cyclical nature of life.
Draw inspiration from this ancient Asian philosophical concept to release the need to chase after perfection in all things. Embrace mistakes and imperfections as opportunities for growth and learning.
Learn to appreciate a job well done to the best of your abilities or others. Strive to see the good in both positive and difficult life experiences as part of your journey.
16. Learn to be Patient
Slow living recognises that some things are worth waiting for. Cultivate patience in your endeavours, allowing them to unfold in their own time.
Do not rush some things in your life as a result of the fear of missing out (FOMO), assuming that you are falling behind your peers. Remember that your life path is unique to you – focus on the road ahead of you, one day at a time.
17. Cultivate Meaningful Relationships
Invest time and energy in nurturing deep, meaningful connections with loved ones. Quality interactions with others contribute significantly to a fulfilling and balanced life.
Embracing slow living is a conscious choice to live with purpose, presence, and intentionality. Remember to design a slower pace of life that suits your lifestyle and what truly brings you joy and keeps you active and meaningfully productive.
Slow living is a celebration of a life well-lived where simplicity, purpose, quality food, and time spent with loved ones or in pursuit of one’s life purpose truly transform us for the better.