Slow living is a mindset whereby you curate a more meaningful and conscious lifestyle that’s in line with what you value most in life.
Slow living is the opposite to overwhelm and burnout. It’s about living better, rather than faster, by intentionally placing what’s important to you at the heart of your lifestyle, living mindfully in self-awareness and making conscious, considered decisions for the benefit of your own well-being, and that of the environment.
If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, left wondering ‘there must be a better way’, then you’re in the right place. Below, you’ll find our advice for how to start living slower, wherever you call home. Despite how #slowliving can appear on Instagram, there’s no need to move to a remote location in the depths of the wilderness, slow living is for all of us. And importantly, being based on our own values, it will look different for all of us.
3 Steps for Embracing Slow Living
- Live by your values – simplifying
- Be self-aware – looking inwards
- Live consciously – looking outwards
1. Live by your values
- Identifying Your Values
- Simplifying to Remove Distractions
Identifying Your Values
Feeling overwhelmed or unfulfilled? If we look honestly at our lives, we probably spend a lot of time doing things that distract from our purpose or what we regard to be really important. Scrolling through social media is a great example and something author and The Slow Home Podcast host, Brooke McAlary, references in her book SLOW. On her own journey to living a more meaningful lifestyle, she found that, ‘there was an enormous disconnect between the things I valued most and my everyday actions’.
On the one hand it’s about stripping back unnecessary distractions. On the other, it’s about giving yourself the permission to live true to yourself, rather than striving to live up to someone else’s idea of success. Slow living isn’t an excuse to be lazy or not work, rather it’s about prioritising and going easy on yourself when it matters. None of us have mastered perfectly juggling work, friends, family, hobbies and home – and it’s ok to admit we haven’t always got it figured out. It’s also ok to step back from the race to keep up with the Joneses and the pressure to constantly consume and add physical things (but not always value) to our lives.
To start pursuing a slower lifestyle, you need to understand why you want to make these changes. What do you want your life to look like? What’s currently missing? What’s getting in the way? Will you look back and regret spending too much time on one area of your life, but not on others? Slow living isn’t a ‘someday’ mindset, it’s a way of thinking that gives you permission to start living, as much as feasibly possible, how you want to live.
Simplifying to Remove Distractions
Learn how to say no to too many commitments, stop rushing and assign the right amount of time to each task.
After identifying your values and what you want to place at the heart of your lifestyle, it’s time to start simplifying both the physical and non-physical clutter.
Some use the term simplifying, while others call it minimalism and use this as a tool to start removing distractions.
- Simplify Your Surroundings
- Simplify Your Diary
Slow living is not going through life at a snail’s pace, rather it’s about gaining time to do the things that matter most to you and to do each thing at the right speed.
Simplify Your Surroundings
Minimalists advocate stripping back items that don’t bring you enjoyment or happiness. To this end, applying Marie Kondo’s method of asking yourself if your items spark joy can help you declutter your home and make it easier to keep tidy. In Brooke McAlary’s SLOW, she shares how she removed the excess stuff in her home and learnt to let go of the emotions attached to things she really didn’t want or need.
While the KonMari Method is predominantly focused on clearing the clutter and the positives to our well-being that this can bring, it can also benefit the way we consume. Asking yourself if a purchase you’re intending to make truly sparks joy or is only a quick pick-me-up after a bad day can help us refrain from buying things we don’t need. This has a positive knock-on effect for the environment and waste crisis, as well as encouraging us to find gratitude and contentment with what we do have.
“Be a curator of your life. Slowly cut things out until you’re left only with what you love, with what’s necessary, with what makes you happy.”Leo Babauta
Simplify Your Diary
We all have commitments we have to honour. Slow living and simple living aren’t solutions that can magically remove all tedious tasks in life. However, a slower lifestyle embraces being more selective to what social plans you say yes to and reminds us to be realistic when setting ourselves tasks to complete. It’s important to not mistake busyness with productivity – we all need time to recharge. In addition, taking on a slower mindset encourages you to assign the right amount of time to each task, rather than rushing. It’s about doing less, but doing the things that matter, better.
“Slow living is a curious mix of being prepared and being prepared to let go. Caring more and caring less. Saying yes and saying no. Being present and walking away. Doing the important things and forgetting those that aren’t.”Brooke McAlary, SLOW
2. Be Self-Aware
Once you’ve identified what’s important and tried to reduce those things that are less important, it’s time to start making small changes to your daily routine and lifestyle. We like to call this everyday deceleration. There are many areas in which you can apply a slow living mindset. However, there are three areas of our everyday lives which can help bring us closer to those values we’ve identified:
- Digital Downtime
Start prioritising good quality sleep and a routine that works for you.
Alongside nourishing food, sleep is our fuel for taking on the day. We recognise the importance of sleep routines for children, but why do we not apply the same logic as adults?
Many successful entrepreneurs also swear by their morning routines. Getting up earlier and at a consistent time can help you carve out more time for yourself, rather than rushing to get ready and leave the house. Popular ideas are exercise and mindful activities, such as yoga or meditation, that allow you to start the day feeling calmer and having laid out your intentions.
Burning the candle at both ends and going to bed late, however, is unlikely to help you tackle each day efficiently, resulting in heightened stress and strain on your to-do list. If you are committing to getting up earlier (early doesn’t need to be 5am), it’s realistic that the time you go to sleep each evening ought to shift, too.
Become more present as you move through your day and feel more connected with how you’re feeling.
A common misconception of mindfulness is that you need to carve out lots of extra time to practise. Yet, mindfulness can be as simple as re-framing mundane activities that you do every day, such as making a cup of tea or hanging out the washing.
Commuting is another great example. Aside from getting from A to B, commuting can seem like wasted time. It’s almost like we take a deep breath when stepping onto the tube or bus and only exhale (and start living again) once we’ve got home. Re-framing commuting through a slow living lens means to stop thinking about the experience as negative and uncomfortable and rather find ways to make it more meaningful. You could practise a guided meditation for commuting using your headphones (if you’ve got a seat), activate your senses and observe what’s around you, or just breathe in for four counts and exhale for four and repeat this, calmly observing your breath. Even just taking a different walk to work, or to the bus stop or station, while making sure to notice what you see around you, can help you feel more engaged and present.
Create time and energy for the things you love by subtracting time-swallowing digital distractions.
We’re all prone to exclaiming, ‘I’m so busy!’ or ‘I just don’t have time‘. When we’re feeling this way, it’s often time enjoying hobbies, interests and self-care that loses out. Pursuing a slower lifestyle can help you reclaim that time.
Our digital devices, while having many positives, also create a permanent link to work and the outside world. If your smartphone has a built-in screen time app, you might be surprised to see just how much time you’re spending online. When you think about how much of that time was necessary or enjoyable, you’ll probably identify minutes or even hours which you spent scrolling through social media or apps without great purpose. Reclaiming this time and filling it with hobbies or self-care activities, whatever this looks like for you, is an opportunity to be creative and switch off from constant digital stimulation.
Our always-on culture can also make it increasingly more difficult to live in the moment. Social media, including LinkedIn, depicts highlights from friends and acquaintances that can induce FOMO (the fear of missing out) and create feelings of inadequacy. The pressure to document our own highlights also draws us away from the present moment and reduces meaningful real time connections with the people we’re with or the places we’re at.
“The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquillity to make meaningful connections–with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds”Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed
3. Live Consciously
Embracing a slow living mindset means striving to become more engaged with nature and how and what we consume. While above we focused on being self-aware, this tenet of slow living is about looking outwards and examining how we engage with the wider world. Living consciously includes reconnecting with the natural world, travelling mindfully and making more considered decisions to minimise environmental impact. What footprint are we leaving behind? What do we want to protect and celebrate?
As we mentioned above under ‘Simplifying’, slowing down and reflecting on why we’re buying something not only helps us avoid spending money on things we don’t need or truly want, but also helps us reduce our own waste footprint and make more considered decisions around what we do purchase.
Rather than rushing to purchase when we do need something, slow living means taking the time to understand how an item was made and striving for the most sustainable option. We become engaged with where our products come from and aim to make meaningful connections with the people and places around us. When we can, we celebrate the time and craftmanship that goes into handmade items and try to shop more locally or seasonally. We explore the benefits of spending time in nature, both for our well-being and for our awareness of our own impact on the environment.
We can also bring some of the main areas of the wider slow living movement into our outward facing notion of living consciously. Some of these are slow food, slow fashion, slow interiors, slow travel and slow gardening.
- A chance to enjoy the mindful process of cooking from scratch
- An opportunity to support local producers and value their craft and heritage
- A focus on eating seasonally
More on slow food.
- A preference for quality over quantity
- An awareness of the environmental and social impact of fast fashion – opting for the most sustainable fabrics where possible
More on slow fashion.
- Creating a conscious home, embracing slow design, and reflecting on the sustainability and provenance of materials used
- Crafting a home for longevity that reflects the needs of its inhabitants, rather than focusing on transient trends
- Embracing quality in the craftsmanship of furniture and home decor items
- Adopting a make do and mend attitude inspired by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi
- A mindful approach to travel that focuses on real cultural connections beyond must-see attractions
- The recognition that the journey is also an important part of the experience
- An opportunity to reconnect with our natural surroundings
More on slow travel.
- A focus on personal and environmental well-being through the process of gardening, rather than instant gratification
- Seasonal living and finding enjoyment in the garden at all times of the year
- A deeper connection to the natural world, where our produce comes from and our local environment
More on slow gardening.
Further Inspiration on Living Slower
- Read our guide to what is slow living and a brief history of the slow movement.
- Reflect on our summary of slow living lessons from Brooke McAlary’s SLOW.
- Get inspired by our curated list of slow living quotes.
- Learn about minimalism.
- Browse our list of independent and slow living magazines.
Let’s live better, not faster.