“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu
Those endless Summer days are a perfect invitation to adopt a Mediterranean pace of slow living, with time for siestas and home-cooked family meals al fresco. With the sun on your face and great company, what more could you need?
In our fast-pace world, taking time to slow down, savor the moment and enjoy simple pleasures has become a luxury. The notions of “you only live once” and “living your best life” has given many of us a sense of urgency. Every moment has to be seized and used productively. Combined with technology that tempts us to be ‘on’ and connected at all times, there’s little room left for slow living. Time even wrote a notorious piece about the Dutch concept of ‘niksen’ – which literally means doing nothing – as if sitting still and staring our of the window is something revolutionary.
But when you’re living with chronic illness, you’re probably used to life in the slow lane. Having little energy, reduced mobility and requiring lots of rest usually means taking things slow. Because slow living due to health problems isn’t a choice, you might feel sad, angry, frustrated and some real FOMO.
But going faster isn’t always better. Slow living has some serious benefits for your health and happiness. Here’s why you should embrace a slow lifestyle – and how to do it.
Why Slow is the Way to Go
For many of us, “busy” has become the standard – and praised – reply when asked how were are, and getting by on little sleep is glorified instead of frowned upon. But why exactly?
One of the most obvious benefits of slow living is having less stress. Whenever you’re under pressure, your body produces cortisol, adrenalin and norepinephrine to deal with the ‘threat’. And that’s perfectly healthy on occasion, but chronic stress wreaks havoc on your health. If your fight-or-flight response is constantly triggered, you increase your risk of heart disease, digestive illness, sleep problems and mental health disorders.
When you’re in a hurry going from one place to the next, it’s also hard to really pay attention to what’s going on around you and inside you. But research shows that mindfulness improves both your physical and mental health. Practicing mindfulness helps to lower your blood pressure, reduces pain, improves sleep and decreases depressive feelings and anxiety.
Taking the time to notice and appreciate the good things in life also boosts your wellbeing in another way. The art of savouring makes you feel more positive and more satisfied with life.
Finally, slow living helps you focus on what’s most important to you. When there’s no longer space to cram appointments and obligations into your calendar, you’re forced to rethink your priorities.
“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.” — Pico Iyer
How to Embrace Slow Living: 21 Ideas
A slow lifestyle all starts with your mindset. Because there’s a reason why you’re always busy, and it’s not just your boss’s fault. If you suffer from FOMO, here’s a sobering reminder: you’re always going to miss out. You can’t do everything and be everywhere at the same time. And yet, if you chose wisely, you’re not really missing out. Because slow living means living according to your values, by taking time for what’s more important to you.
So choose quality over quantity with these 21 ideas to put slow living into practice.
1. Slow Food
The slow living movement started in the ’80s when Carlo Petrini launched his Slow Food Manifesto as an antidote to the advancing fast food industry. As it turns out, cooking and eating are both great ways to start slowing down and savoring simple pleasures. Here’s how you can turn your slow meals into a moment of mindfulness:
- Cook from scratch. You don’t necessarily have to make your own pasta or jam (although that can be fun and tasty!). Whipping up a fresh salad with a few simple ingredients will also do the trick. On chilly days, get out your slow cooker out and let your minestrone soup, short ribs or chili simmer for hours.
- On the weekend, buy your fresh produce at a farmer’s market or your local boucher and bakery.
- Brew your tea as if you’re taking part in a Japanese tea ritual.
- Don’t eat at your desk or on the go. Set the table and sit down to eat. Trust me, your digestion will thank you. Mindful eating is also an effective method to consume less calories without dieting. Light a candle or say grace before dinner also set the tone for a slow, mindful dinner.
- Is there anything more hands-on, down-to-earth and nurturing than kneading dough? Bake your own bread, make pizza from scratch or bake a delicious chocolate coconut tart.
2. Slow Living Mindset
As much as I love mental stimulation, nowadays most of us are bombarded with more information and sensory input than we can process. Luckily, with a few simple changes, you can still slow down in our always-on, always-connect world:
- Limit the amount of information coming at you. Decide what you would like your mental diet to look like and consciously choose what works for you: screen-free Sundays, turning off notifications or having a news fast.
- Leave room in your schedule for spontaneity, relaxing and ‘niksen’. Don’t take on too many obligations, responsibilities or even fun meetups. Build in buffer time between appointments so you don’t have to stress about being late.
- Single-task. Successful multi-tasking is an illusion. So don’t keep 21 tabs open or constantly switch between tasks, but focus on the one thing you’re doing.
- Set boundaries. Keep your to-do list manageable with only 3 goals you wish to accomplish that day. Also make a to-don’t list: activities and people you will no longer spend your precious time on.
- Enjoy the silence. We tend to fill every second of silence with talking, music, the TV on in the background or mental chatter. But quietude has a profoundly positive impact on your brain. So escape our noisy world from time to time with meditation, a walk in nature or retreating to a peaceful place.
“When I slow down, I can dive deeper—and that’s how I prefer to live.” — Cait Flanders
3. Slow Movement
As Thank Your Body writes, “doing slow, deliberate movement that involves body awareness and presence has many health benefits that help the immune system.” Instead of going through the motions and doing your exercises, slow movement is about tuning inwards to sense how your body feels. A strong mind-body connection can help you recognize warning signals and make it easier to practice true self-care. So how can you practice slow movement?
- Take up yoga, tai chi or qichong. Besides flexibility and fitness, these mind-body exercises promote slow, deep breathing and awareness of body and mind.
- Walking is the most natural mode of transportation. Yes, it’s slow, but you see so much more of your route than when you’re driving 120km/hour. Even better, do a walking meditation. Counting your steps or paying attention to how it actually feels to put one foot in front of the other calm your mind and help you be present.
- Slow dance. Or if you’re by yourself, try intuitive dancing. Instead of focusing on making the all right moves, get lost in the music and notice how your body feels as you dance.
- Do a solo sport you love with awareness. Whether you enjoy swimming, cycling or hiking, focus more on the journey than the destination or how fast you’re going. Also, you can’t afford to let your mind wander off for too long when you have a go at surfing or stand-up paddling.
4. Slow Fun
Is you weekend always packed with lots of activities and social gatherings? If that’s how you recharge, great! But when you’re more introverted or simply crave more restorative downtime, there are plenty of ways you can take it easy and have fun too:
- There’s no better way to slow down than to head outdoors. Everything in nature happens in its own time. In the weekends, you could take a walk by the beach or go forest bathing. Camping is another great way to slow down, unplug and live in the moment. And what about planting something and watching it grow? If you’re chronically ill, check out these ideas to still get your daily nature fix, even if you’re housebound.
- Make something with your hands. Crafting is a creative way to embrace slow living and build your patience. The very act of painting, sewing or working with wood slows you down and makes you more mindful. What’s more, working with your hands releases feel-good chemicals and boosts your mental health.
- Go analog for a day. In our always-connected world, the simple act of unplugging can change your pace of living. Let’s face it, nothing makes you lose track of time more quickly than browsing online, scrolling social media and watching “just one more” episode on Netflix. Instead of getting sucked into your screens, pull out pen and paper, grab a paper book or take up your favorite hobby.
- Give one thing your full attention. Visit a museum, choose an intriguing painting and truly look at it. What can you discover about the colors, composition, what the artists tried to convey? Or if you’re a music lover, really listen to your favorite album instead of having it on in the background.
- Enjoy the moment instead of capturing it. Technology offers amazing tools, but they were created to make life easier, not rule it. So unless it’s a special occasion, put your phone away during dates and family gatherings. Stare at the sunset with your lover instead of taking a picture and posting it on Instagram.
- Slow travel isn’t necessarily about pace, but more about a mindset. Traveling slowly means not ticking off a list of must-see tourist attractions, but enjoying your destination more deeply. Get lost in a maze of cobblestone streets, wander the street markets or experience local culture through Couchsurfing initiatives. In everyday life, you could rethink your commute. Explore the options for walking, cycling or public transport if you’re healthy and mobile enough. And when you catch that train, try staring out the window to daydream instead of checking your email.
- Most of all: don’t be afraid of boredom. Seriously, a shocking amount of people would rather give themselves an electric jolt (!) than to be left alone with their thoughts. Doesn’t it sound a little alarming we’re so bad at doing nothing? Stop filling every minute of spare time. Daydreaming and even being a little bored are more important than you might think (and not lazy at all!).
Is slow living something you would like to try? And if chronic illness forces you to slow down, is there any way you can make pacing and going at snail pace less frustrating?
This blog post contains affiliate links to resources I thought you might find helpful, at no extra cost to you. All opinions are my own.
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