” Slow living is a lifestyle emphasizing slower approaches to aspects of everyday life”. Parkins, Wendy; Craig, Geoffrey (2006). Slow living. Oxford, UK: Berg.
Often, we know we need to slow down to relieve stress. But slow living is hard. If you’re like me, you have so many demands in your day and it seems impossible to slow down. I’m torn between my young adult kids, elderly parents, and a busy, full-time job. When I do get down time, it’s hard to resist the temptation to binge watch on Netflix. Don’t get me wrong, I love binge watching on Netflix, but I don’t want to find myself doing it every night.
What do I want to do instead? Well, write for this blog, practice yoga, read, walk, hang with the family. But by nighttime my brain is fried.
If you look at the quote above, you’ll see that slow living emphasizes a slower “approach” to life. In other words, the secret is incorporating slow living into your mindset, not looking at it as “something you have to do”.
But how? Well, here are three ways you can start with right now:
1. Find joy in your day
It’s so easy to run on auto-pilot, only paying attention when something bad happens. We all have a negativity bias, but studies show that a positive mood “has been shown to be associated with healthier behaviors and healthier ways of coping with life challenges”.
I was never much of my surroundings unless something major or different happened to shake me up. Now, I try to pay attention to the good stuff. I notice when I accomplish something at work, or share a kindness with someone, when I witness a good deed or eat a delicious meal. There are so many tiny things in a day that give me joy. The trick is to recognize at least some of them.
Sometimes, I even focus on what isn’t — I don’t have any calls to make (I hate the phone), I have no errands to run (I’m basically lazy), or nothing hurts (I’m getting old). I don’t remember to do this all the time, but the more I try, the easier it gets. You may want to set yourself a periodic reminder to express gratitude, or think of something good every time you sit down to eat or step through a doorway.
Slow living starts with shifting to that positive mindset and embracing joy. Before you can make time for what’s meaningful, you need to see what makes you happy.
Surrendering is my intention for 2019. You can read more about it here. I’m a huge overthinker, and I run through scenarios in my head that usually fail to materialize. So one way I’m trying to live slowly is to stay in the present, be mindful, and let go of constant worry.
Easy right? psh.
My hardest challenge is getting rid of the mental chatter that is unnecessary. For me, my meditation practice is my best tool. Sitting each morning gives me a chance to make friends with my mind. I have nothing to do but watch it, see where it takes me and work on bring things back to my breath. Then, when I’m out in my day, I find myself catching those thoughts a lot more — recognizing what is helpful planning for the future and what is useless rumination.
If you want to give meditation a try, check out Insight Timer — it’s free! And just 5 minutes of meditation a day will help you slow down and be mindful throughout your day.
It’s hard to tame the anxious mind, and it takes practice. Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself going down the rabbit hole of worry. Just try to find opportunities to say “I can’t control that”, and step back. That’s mindfulness in action, and it’s your most powerful tool for slow living. And it doesn’t take much time — just practice.
3. Let go of shit
Think about what you can let go of. It could be something material such as clutter or clothes, embracing a minimalist lifestyle. Spend 10 minutes a day to clear out one or two things. It could be emotional baggage such as regret or guilt or resentment. Take some time each day to sit with that, to journal about it, to unpack it so it no longer has a hold on you. It could be mental chatter such as worry or stress or fear. Fretting too much about what others want or think, or or beating yourself up for not being enough of something.
I’m a huge introvert. And for a long time I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t want to join in on everything — I prefer long conversations with a single friend rather than being in a group. I love sitting at home with a good book and I enjoy my own company. But instead of honouring that, I’d tried to keep up with everyone. I’d go out when I wanted to stay in, and I’d put on a brave face. It look a long time, but I’m now at the point where I’m comfortable with who I am and the choices I make. By slowing down, getting to know myself, and letting go of what others think, I’ve become a much more authentic version of myself.
All this stuff takes work. But you can do it gradually. Pick something and work on it for as long as you need. Ignore all the social media posts where people appear to have their shit together and just learn to let go of one thing at a time. Celebrate when you do. Know that you are one step closer to a slow, rich life — one where you call the shots and you are not overrun with baggage or anxiety.
Phew. That’s a lot. But you don’t have to do it all. Just pick something you want to work on. It may be finding a bit of joy in each day, it may be surrendering to something larger than yourself or it may be letting go of something that has a hold on you. Any one of these strategies will help you slow down and find a bit of relief from your stress.
Remember that you’ll never be finished. I’ve been practice slow living and mindfulness for a long time and I still have a list as long as my arm of things that I want to do more of and things that I want to do less of. But the number one rule of living slowly and mindfully is doing it compassionately. Not judging yourself. but showing up wherever you are right now and taking baby steps towards the slow life that you want. You’ve got this.
I realize these aren’t necessarily the stress management tools you were expecting. But to me, slowing down is more a way of thinking than a way of life. Well it’s both, but I think it’s more powerful and lasting and organic and joyful if it starts with your mindset.
Let me know in the comments what your biggest challenges are. I can’t wait to share ideas!