Slowing down in a fast paced world can, at times, make us feel as if we’re not doing enough to ‘keep up’. It's easy to find our minds equating 'going faster' with being more productive, accomplishing more, or getting further ahead in life.
However, going faster can also mean missing the little moments. Faster can make us feel rushed, stressed, forgetful, chaotic and out of balance. The faster our pace, the more we miss out on, and the more we are fast forwarding through our life.
Over time I realized slowing down not only brings awareness of the ‘little in between moments’ where your life is lived, but also helps keep your schedule filled with your true priorities.
We wrote this article to be your complete guide to slow living, not just another slow living blog post. We’ll explain exactly what slow living is, how it can help you, and how to make it part of your lifestyle.
What is Slow Living?
Slow Living is defined as a lifestyle that encourages a slower approach to everyday life. It's about taking actions or pursuing any tasks at a relaxed and leisurely pace.
Slow living provides us the opportunity to be intentional with where we put our attention, energy, and focus. It also allows us to be more present and engaged with our days, our environment, and the people within them.
Slow living also has the capability of bringing meaning and significance to our otherwise mundane tasks. By slowing down and truly being involved in each activity throughout our day, we can begin to see how special and important everything is. It can spark a fresh appreciation for life overall.
I think a good slow living synonym is simple living, since it’s chief objective is to help you simplify your life down to a more manageable state.
What Slow Living Addresses/Fixes
There are a number of issues that a slow living lifestyle helps address. The main three we will cover are Sensory Overload, Decision Fatigue, and your Circadian Rhythm.
We have so much entertainment, media, and information literally at our fingertips. It's quite easy for our minds to slip into consuming mode whenever we have a free moment.
Slow living helps slow the amount of information we take in. It shifts our perspective on how we spend these free moments, and takes us off our usual auto-pilot response to pick up our phones and consume.
We instead begin to establish habits such as being still, noticing our breath, and becoming more aware of our surroundings.
Along with all the distractions, there are also many decisions that have to be made throughout our day. The more we own, consume, and the busier we make ourselves, the more decisions we have to make overall.
This can lead to what is called decision fatigue. Basically, as you make more and more decisions throughout the day, the quality of each individual decision will diminish.
When we slow down, streamline, and simplify the amount of options we give ourselves, we create more space and mental energy. This allows us to make better decisions overall and reduces the time spent second guessing our choices.
Our circadian rhythm is our body's internal clock. This is the process that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. In a fast paced world when we are always on the go, this natural cycle can suffer. I'll sum it up using one of my favorite slow living quotes:
Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.
It’s not just a faster pace that can interfere with our circadian rhythm. The timing of our meals as well as the type of light we’re exposed to also play a critical role. Slowing down and creating consistent routines can help our bodies get back into balance.
If this hits close to home for you, consider reading more about Ancestral Living to help bring your cycle back into balance.
The Principles of Slow Living
We have found three main principles that help shape a slow living lifestyle. These principles are: getting Closer to Source, Turning Routines into Rituals, and Downshifting.
Closer to Source
Just as it states, this principle is about getting as close to the original state of something as we possibly can. This means getting closer to the true, natural source of our food, our interactions, and our environment.
Getting 'Closer to Source' with our food:
- Using whole food ingredients with little to no processing
- Eating foods that are in season
- Eating local or buying from a farmer's market when possible
- Curating some slow living recipes instead of ‘instant’ meals
Check out Thrive Market for healthy non-perishable items shipped right to your door.
Getting 'Closer to Source' with our interactions:
- Meeting in-person as opposed to texts or phone calls
- Focusing on quality as opposed to quantity with your social circle
- Cultivating inter-generational relationships and creating a ‘slow living community’
And lastly, getting 'Closer to Source' in our environments:
- Taking breaks from electronics, WiFi, artificial lighting, etc.
- Spending more time in nature (especially in natural sunlight, which helps regulate your body's circadian rhythm).
- Paying attention to what you wear, using less synthetics and more natural fibers. There are many slow living brands to choose from that sell natural (and fashionable) clothing.
- Using natural materials for items in your home, especially those you come into contact with each day. Make the switch to glass food storage containers and upgrade to an eco-friendly mattress.
Turning Routines Into Rituals
Turning a routine into a ritual is about bringing intention, awareness and engagement to the task.
A ritual (or ceremony) is defined as emphasizing careful attention to form and detail. When parts of our routines are approached as rituals, we bring a sense of meaning and significance to the task.
Any activity within your usual routine in which you find yourself daydreaming or 'checking out' is a great opportunity for creating a ritual.
For instance, if you are typically half asleep while you prepare your coffee or breakfast in the morning, try getting yourself more involved in the process. Eliminate the background noise. Smell each ingredient. Avoid multitasking.
Routines are helpful for creating structure, but can become a hindrance when we are on auto pilot during the process. This is when we find ourselves fast-forwarding through our lives. Create rituals instead.
Downshifting is at the heart of slow living. It is the intentional slowing of your overall pace in life. Downshifting is also a mindset shift, and a resetting of priorities.
Adopting this mindset is about creating more freedom & fulfillment in your life by placing a greater value on your leisure time and meaningful relationships.
It redirects efforts spent climbing the corporate ladder, taking on more overtime, or getting caught up in the rat race to pursue and live a life of simplicity and balance.
Downshifting is not meant to be done overnight, and there are even different degrees of downshifting, depending upon how far you’d like to take it. Also keep in mind it is a gradual process, and isn’t meant to be a completely drastic overhaul overnight.
It’s about making strides in that direction, taking it one small habit change at a time.
The Slow Living Lifestyle
Now that we've covered what slow living is, what it addresses, and how it might benefit you, let's talk about making it a lifestyle.
The three areas we'll cover here are your Morning & Evening Routines, your Leisure Time, and your Relationships.
Morning and Evening Routines
This is where you set the tone for your day, as well as review, reflect and complete your day.
As we discussed earlier, bringing slow living practices into this part of your life is going to be about turning typical mindless routines into a time of intentional awareness and thoughtful attention.
A few additional things to keep in mind during these routines are the significant roles that can be played in syncing and balancing your circadian rhythm. When this natural internal clock is running smoothly, it will reflect in your life as well.
Some practices within our routines that can help with this are things like:
AM: get some exposure to natural sunlight at the start of your day
PM: turn off electronic devices 2+ hours before bed to kick start melatonin production
Eat slow. Really taste and smell the flavors. Eating your meals at specified times each day establishes a natural cycle for your digestion. Also, try to eat all of your meals within a 12 hour window, and stop eating 3-4 hours before bed for best results.
This is your time. The free time you have for yourself throughout the day.
Embracing a slow living lifestyle within your leisure time is about being intentional with your energy and giving your body time to rest, recover, and recharge. Make this a time where you nourish and replenish yourself.
Be careful not to confuse self-care with checking or zoning out in front of a screen for countless hours. There is nothing wrong with indulging in a movie or show now and then, however it is not really a way to nourish and restore yourself.
Check out our list of 20 Nourishing Activities you can use to create a regular self-care routine.
Also, if we're not intentional with the time limits we set, it can lead to that 'fast-forwarding through life' effect mentioned earlier.
Use this time to create a better, more fulfilling life for yourself. Get your priorities set, work towards meaningful goals, and take some time to reflect.
A slow living lifestyle is about making the ones you love a priority, and setting aside time to build and nurture those relationships.
When we are practicing slow living, we are making an effort to spend quality time (in person whenever possible) with the people we care about.
It's easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, and find we unintentionally neglect these important relationships.
Slow living helps us shift our mindset about how we view the time we have… and how it's spent. This reflects in the time we allocate for others as well.
When living a slow living lifestyle, our relationships are focused more on the quality of the connections we have, as opposed to the quantity.
It's less time communicating through text or social media, and more time 'one on one' or in small groups; creating memories, experiencing life together, and building lasting friendships.
Consider Dunbar's number. It explains that we have a cognitive limit on the number of people with whom we can maintain a meaningful relationship.
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Over the span of 7 days, we will cover a variety of topics that will allow you to find ways to slow down, reset, and simplify.
15 Slow Living Activities
To help you incorporate slow living into your lifestyle, we have created a list of 15 Slow Living Activities; 5 activities for each of the 3 categories mentioned above.
Morning & Evening Routines
1. Slow Beverages
Brew your morning coffee in a french press. Steep a cup of loose leaf tea in the evening. The process of making your favorite hot beverages in this manner helps you to slow down, practice patience, and gives a renewed appreciation for each sip.
2. Mindful Movements
Begin your day with movement. End your day with some stretches. Taking the time to exercise your body in the morning can provide a boost of energy and lifts your mood. Ending the day with a Yoga session helps you unwind and prepares you for a good night’s sleep.
3. Create Order
Make a point to tidy up and declutter your living space. This can help boost your productivity in the morning and gives you a sense of accomplishment. In the evening, this gives you a sense of completion, and can mentally prepare you for the next day.
4. Pause and Reflect
Start a regular journaling practice. This is a time for you to set intentions, reflect, explore ideas, and gain some clarity. In the morning, start by writing down 3 intentions for the day. In the evening, take time to reflect, and write about 3 things you are grateful for.
5. Find Stillness
Make time for daily meditation. The benefits of meditation can not be understated. Start somewhere, even if it’s just sitting in silence, and breathing deeply for 5 minutes. If you are brand new to meditation, a great way to start is with one of these apps: Insight Timer or Headspace.
If you've been interested in meditation for awhile, but aren't sure where to begin. I highly recommend this course: A Meditation Expert's 14-Day Guide. You'll learn how to reap the many benefits of meditation; less anxiety, better moods, happier relationships, and deeper sleep.
6. Spend Time in Nature
You’ll get a much needed break from electronics, and exposure to fresh air & sunshine. Take a walk around a local park, or plan a day hike. Find ways to make it interactive such as watching the sunset or sunrise, or learning about the local flora and fauna.
7. Read a Physical Book
Reading inspires creativity, and can even help us relax. Reading a physical book as opposed to digital is another way you can get closer to source. You’ll get the tactile sensation of turning the pages, and avoid the ‘screen time’ and notifications. You could even subscribe to a slow living magazine!
8. Care for Something
This shifts your focus beyond yourself. Start a small garden, even if it’s just a couple potted plants on your porch or a small herb garden in your window. House plants are great options too, as they clean the air and help enliven your home.
9. Learn a Self-Reliance Skill
These are skills that can help you become more resourceful and instill confidence. One example could be learning how to can or preserve food. Maybe even learning how to maintain your vehicle, or tackling some home repairs or projects.
10. Take on a Creative Hobby
Creativity is a great way to bring us into the present moment, into a state of flow. Turn your creative ideas into something tangible. Try your hand at photography. Get involved in music; try writing a song, learning to play an instrument, or singing. Create a piece of art by painting, sketching, or even coloring.
If you have kids between 5-10 years old, check out Orange Art Box. They have a curated collection of creative art projects, each one containing all of the supplies needed to spark creativity.
11. Express Appreciation
Mail a letter or thank you card. Take the time to write out a letter to a friend or relative. Send out a birthday, anniversary, or ‘thinking of you’ card. At times, digital connections can seem impersonal. A physical token of appreciation can really brighten someone’s day.
12. Shared Experiences
Enjoy a board game or puzzle. Playing a board game or completing a puzzle together (as opposed to watching a movie) creates a deeper connection and a richer experience. Make this time about the people you’re with and the memories you’re creating together.
13. Break Bread Together
Prepare a meal from scratch with family and/or friends. Make a point to get everyone involved in the preparation of the meal. That way when you all sit down to enjoy your dinner and conversation everyone will have contributed to the experience in some way.
14. Meet in Person
Proactively schedule 'in person' time with family/friends. Treat friends and family as a priority in your life. Again, digital connections can feel impersonal. You also miss out on the important aspects of communication such as touch, eye contact, and body language.
15. Care for Someone
Reach out to someone in need. See if your neighbor needs an extra hand on a project, or give back to your community with volunteer work. Maybe even find someone to mentor. This would also be a great opportunity to create those inter-generational relationships.
I hope you were able to find some helpful tips and inspiration toward a slow living life.
It's OK to start with small changes, it's about the progress made, not perfection. Just make a point to start somewhere, and take strides in that direction.
Give yourself a slow living challenge:
What are some activities you are already doing in your life?
How can you turn some of them into slow living activities?
About The Author
Krissy is a writer and lifestyle blogger. She is passionate about health & wellness, the joys of simple living, and overall life balance.