What Is Slow Living & Will It Benefit Me?
Last week, I talked about slow marketing, a form of marketing whereby the brand aims to engage and nurture its customers. This approach is contrary to the brash approach that some businesses (think RyanAir) have to sales over substance.
Slow living, however, is something that can be used whether you own a business or not. In the future, I will speak about how you can incorporate the slow living approach into your business. For now, though, I’d like to focus on slow living to help improve your wellbeing.
What is slow living?
It’s a way of addressing the rush of modern life. There’s a reason many old traditions, from photograph albums to record players are having a resurgence. People feel overwhelmed.
I’ve seen newspaper articles berating how all of our generation has ‘anxiety’. I’ve put anxiety is inverted commas because that’s how I’ve seen it written. They believe that having anxiety is a trend and that when one big influencer speaks out about his or her anxiety this automatically means that hundreds of other people also want anxiety.
I’m here to tell you, from first-hand experience, that this is not the case. The reason so many people have feelings of dread, panic attacks and anxious moods is because of the pace of the world we live in. People who choose to sit down and watch a bit of TV are shamed for not chasing down their dreams 24 hours a day. People who leave work on time are eyeballed out the door for having the audacity to leave work on time and not stay for an extra hour like the rest of the ‘harder workers’. If you’re not prepared to cram on an overflowing tube you’re entitled. I could go on.
Slow living is a counter-argument to all of this. It encourages a slower pace of life and teaches you that you don’t have to be 100mph at all times in order to succeed. I’ve built my entire business around this method; I know myself – I need rest, I need flexibility and I need to take a step back when I’m not feeling at my most creative. A fast pace of living doesn’t allow for this.
Is slow living right for me?
I think slow living is right for everybody. I’m a hugely ambitious person and I’ve still made this way of working work for me. Scandinavian countries have been practising their versions of slow living for years. It’s not a coincidence that these countries are some of the happiest in the world.
This article isn’t offering you permission to sit around and do nothing with your days. It’s suggesting a more gentle approach to the way you treat yourself, your work and your relationships. I’m also suggesting that we can step outside of the confines of the 9-5 which has governed us our entire lives. I’m my most productive from 6am – 2pm. In which case, why does it make sense for me to work 9-5, even though I’m unproductive for three of those hours and needlessly sitting around for 3 of my productive hours?
I think we can all add a bit of slow living into our lives. Today’s post should serve as an introduction to this approach. Let’s begin…
The first step in this process is to slow down mealtime. Meal times, particularly at lunch, have stopped being a time for us enjoy our food and engage in conversation. Hardly anybody I know has a lunchtime anymore, mostly because they feel judged by all of the other people who are sitting eating at their desks.
If you don’t want to leave the office for a long period of time, try starting my simply eating your lunch outside or in any location that isn’t your desk. At dinner, eat at a dining table and talk to each other without your phones in grabbing distance. The point of this transition is to allow yourself to enjoy and appreciate the food on your plate and be encouraged to nurture yourself more.
‘Slow food’ doesn’t end there, though. This process encourages you to start growing your own food. James and I are currently building a raised bed to fill it with all kinds of fresh produce. There’s something so rewarding about growing and eating your own fresh food.
If the thought of the upkeep of this discourages you, start small with a few herbs. If you use herbs regularly, having a few of your favourite herbs growing in the garden will save you money, too. You don’t have to have a garden, either. Herbs and some vegetables grow just as well sitting on a nice sun-soaked windowsill.
There will be some people reading this who have no desire to grow things and that’s ok, too. If that’s you, perhaps try making something from scratch. Whether it’s a loaf of banana bread or a pasta sauce. Test different flavour combinations and don’t rush the process too much.
Slow living isn’t another fad to try to fit into your already busy life. It doesn’t come with rules. What I’ve set out in this post are suggestions, but that’s all. Slowing down your life to a level that feels manageable for you isn’t a lifestyle choice, it’s a necessity.
If the idea of slowing your entire life down feels daunting or unmanageable, start with just one daily task. A lot of people choose to start with breakfast. Breakfast is usually a rushed affair because many people choose to get up at the very last minute. Instead, get up half an hour earlier and savour the entire breakfast experience. Again, these are merely suggestions – if you’re more of an evening person, losing half an hour of sleep in the morning won’t work for you.
If breakfast even seems like too much, try just savouring your morning coffee/tea/juice. Enjoy making it, savour the aromas it lets off and sit in peaceful solitude and drink it without your phone.
Stop Rushing Your Movement
Think about all the times you rush throughout the day. Your alarm rushes you to get out of bed, you inhale your breakfast so you can run to get your train. You rush into work where your brain spends the entire time rushing from task to task. Instead of me continuing, why don’t you think about your day and all of the areas you could slow down.
Enjoy the details of your daily commute. When I used to get the train into London I would often use the walk from the car to the station to notice how the trees have changed or what the weather was like. On the train, I’d always listen to something; be it a podcast or music. I’ve found people on commuter trains to be overwhelmingly negative and the last thing you want to do is get sucked into their unhappiness before your day has even started.
Take a walk at lunch or cycle/walk part of your commute instead. If you are walking between places, keep your eyes on what’s going on around you and not on your phone.
Even if you take none of the advice I’ve listed above, simply being more mindful of slowing down throughout the day might unconsciously encourage new behaviours.
Going offline can take on various forms, these will differ depending on your mood. Some people choose to only read their emails after 12 pm so that they can progress with the tasks they set out to do. Others don’t look at their phones past 9pm – this is a particularly useful tip if you struggle to fall asleep.
My advice is this; if you are feeling desperately burnt out, take an entire weekend offline. There are accounts of people who have done this all over the internet. One of my favourites is Lily Pebbles 31 days offline. Sometimes it’s needed, particularly when your entire life is centred around being in this space. It doesn’t have to be so drastic, though. An afternoon off can be just as cathartic to the right person.
Busy Does Not Equal Success
I have been the person that’s always too busy to do anything. I had to cancel my plans at the last minute because I had to travel so much for work. It didn’t make me feel happy and I certainly didn’t take any pride in telling people I was too busy. I’m making the same amount of money as I was back then but with half of the stress.
What I will say is that sometimes when somebody is always telling you they’re busy they are really just a rubbish person. But, if you don’t think they’re rubbish, it might just be (like in my case) that when I did have time I choose to favour doing nothing for my own wellbeing.
Just like success isn’t measured by how much money you make, it’s also not measured by how many hours you work.
Many people disagree with the approach I take to work, but it has served me well so far. If my mind feels fuzzy or I’m tired I stop working. I’m not part of the power through brigade, I’m part of the care about my own mental wellbeing brigade. Your brain feeling like that is a sign – and it’s not a sign to continue.
Your Workouts Don’t Have To Be High Intensity
It does feel good to really push yourself sometimes, but it’s by no means essential. Cycling, Pilates, yoga, walking, gymnastics… there are loads of ways you can workout without having to almost die in a HIIT session.
My friend and I used to play badminton (code for having a gossip) but it still got our heart rates up and we always enjoyed the time we spent together. If your job is taxing, squeezing a stress-inducing run into your lunchtime or going to a high-intensity session after work isn’t always the best approach.
Make It Work For You
Slow living is about listening to your body when it’s telling you to stop and doing so without feeling any level of guilt. This whole process has to be guilt-free. If you’re replacing stress with guilt, you’re not making positive and impactful changes.
If you are in a job where the people around you make you feel guilty for your decisions, perhaps you should think about changing your job. I used to think it was completely normal to have a company culture based around that because it was all I knew. Since working in a few places that don’t have a toxic work culture I know that you do not have to put up with that.