“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” — Lily Tomlin
Living a simple life is about taking the foot off the accelerator so you have the time to take a deep breath and appreciate the view.
Recently, I was in a book shop looking for some inspiration and a new book to read. After much indecision I found myself drawn to a book called “SLOW” by Brooke McAlary.
The beautiful crafted front cover grabbed my attention with 3 simple words: “Live life simply”.
Now the books in my hands had me hooked and excited to look inside. What sealed the deal and got the purchase over the line was a letter on page one from Brooke to the world. She wrote:
“Dear Mr and Mrs Jones,
I am writing to inform you of my withdrawal from the race to keep up with you. It has come to my attention that prolonged attempts to compete with you have been detrimental to my health, my bank account, my self-confidence and my ability to feel content. This is a price I am no longer willing to pay”.
I digested this 264 page book in less than a week.
The message of slowing down and simplifying life was something I have been striving towards for some time. Reading Brooke’s journey reminded me the journey so far has been 100% worthwhile.
Similar to Brooke’s story, I got to a point where I didn’t want to feel I was competing with everyone around me. I wanted a life on my terms that offered balance. I didn’t want to feel like the running hamster on that ever turning wheel of life. Over time I feel I have achieved that vision.
What about you?
You will never get a Better Opportunity to Embrace a Slower Pace of life than Now!
With the consequences of Covid-19 the pace of life has dramatically slowed overnight. People have literally stopped running from one engagement to the next. Staying at home has become the new normal.
Demands have diminished. Daily routines have been interrupted. We suddenly have time.
What can we do with that time?
We have the opportunity to slow down.
Covid-19 is slowing the pace of life down all around the world. We can’t go faster, so why not ease back and find a way how to enjoy what life can offer.
While the impact of the pandemic has been tough on our lives and mental wellbeing the enforced slowing down has many benefits worth exploring.
Remember when we would say, “I wish I had more time to do other things other than just work”. Well- guess what? You can!
The current moment offers a unique chance to push back against the cult of speed and to continue life in a slower, more meaningful way.
Life before Covid-19
Before Covid-19 we had created a frantic lifestyle in which not a minute was wasted. The 24 hours of each day was carved up, dissected, and reduced to 10-minute blocks of efficiency.
- We became agitated in the doctor’s surgery waiting for more than 5 minutes.
- We grew frustrated with never ending traffic congestion.
- We became annoyed by the supermarket lines.
- We took our smartphones with us on holiday.
- We would go through our emails at restaurants
- We attended to our online bank accounts while walking in the park.
We had become slaves to our “urgent” appointments and to-do lists. Life was about speed.
An example of how the speed of our lives was increasing was conducted in the U.K by the University of Hertfordshire. Their study found the walking speed of pedestrians in 34 cities around the world had increased by 10% from 1995 to 2005.
What Does a Slow Living Lifestyle Really look like?
Sloww.co defines slow living as a conscious choice to push back against the state of constant busyness and “time poverty.” It’s an approach to life that emphasises balance and simplicity.
The lifestyle focus embraces :
- Reflection and mindfulness
- Savouring of lifes unique moments
- Pacing activities rather than rushing
- Connection with ourself and the world around us
- Finding a life of purpose and meaning
- Discovering a flow like state with everything we do
Finding the Real you
Through the years of speed and busyness did you have those moments when you imagined this perfect time when you could be still and do the things you loved when you were younger?
Did you crave the opportunity to just be?
This restoration of our inner selves is the part of us that shouts out from afar. It’s the part of us that images, dreams and wants to question who we are and what is important?
We have been living too fast. We have sold our inner selves to the devil of speed, efficiency, money, hyper-connectivity, “progress.”
When we have the chance, like we do now, to slow and listen to our inner self we start to hear the breathing of our spirit. The awareness of those breaths shows us a way of living that releases us from being a prisoner of a hectic lifestyle. We are no longer held captive by the world around us.
What Slow Living isn’t
It’s useful to gain some perspective around the idea of slowing living and simple living.
What does it mean?
A good starting point is to understand what slow living isn’t.
An article called, “Slow Living 301: How to Start a Slow Living Lifestyle,” offers some great insights into breaking down perceived perceptions around slow living. Quoting the author Kyle Kowalski, she writes:
- Slow living is about doing everything as slowly as possible: This is definitely one of the biggest misperceptions. Slow living is not about living your life in slow motion. It’s about doing everything at the right speed and pacing instead of rushing. Slow living isn’t about losing time by going slowly; it’s about gaining time by doing the things that are most important to you.
- Slow living is the same as simple living: The theme was that you can live simply but not slowly, and you can live slowly but not simply. I’ve found that simple living is more focused on things (materialism, consumption, etc) and slow living is more focused on time (energy, balance, etc). Some of us choose to take the best of both worlds and live slowly and simply—think of it like a Venn diagram where there’s some overlap in the middle.
- Slow living is about doing and being less: I read an article where the author said she was giving up slow living because she was “losing my identity.” While slow living eliminates the nonessentials from your life, the intent is to free up time so you can be more.
- Slow living is anti-technology: Slow living isn’t about traveling back in time. It’s about using technology as a tool instead of technology using you.
Step 1: Where do we start?
Lifestyle habits do not change easily. There will always be some form of resistance to do things differently. There needs to be a conscious effort to uncover our priorities and what inspires us in life if we want things to change. The only way we can begin to uncover what change looks like for us is by questioning “WHY?”
What is important? What benefits are there to gain by changing to a slower simpler living lifestyle?
In her book “SLOW,” Brooke McAlary acknowledges the importance of understanding “Why?” She writes:“Having and knowing my Why helps me decide what actions to take”.
Through the process of discovery we will find our reason for wanting/needing to embrace a slower simpler life. It will establish our foundation that will support on the journey, especially when we may be confronted with doubt.
STEP 2: Unearthing what a slower simplified approach to life looks like.
What can we do to make life easier?
You may have found that the last few months have given you more time to think and reflect on what’s really important to you. When we slow down, we are more likely to gain value from the smaller things in our everyday existence. Simplifying our lives helps create unlimited possibilities for personal growth
For me I have found tapping into creativity has become a valued and rewarding new habit. With the extra time now available I am inspired to try writing blogs like the one you are reading now. I do not profess to be any good; yet it offers me an outlet to slow down and enjoy.
I look for nothing other than happiness from the process. It gives me a sense of direction and purpose I did not have before.
What are some changes you can make in your lifestyle to simplify your life?
20 Ways to Slow Down and Find Simplified Life
Sometimes we need a little inspiration to point us in the right direction.
If you need some great ideas how to transform your life, by choosing less, I highly recommend Leo Babauta at ‘Zen Habits’. A prolific blogger who offers some cool concepts we all can try to slow down and enjoy life:
1. Do less. It’s hard to slow down when you are trying to do a million things. Instead, make the conscious choice to do less.
2. be present. It’s not enough to just slow down — you need to actually be mindful of whatever you’re doing at the moment. That means, when you find yourself thinking about something you need to do, or something that’s already happened, or something that might happen … gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Focus on what’s going on right now.
3. Disconnect. Don’t always be connected. Being connected all the time means we’re subject to interruptions. We’re constantly stressed about information coming in; we are at the mercy of the demands of others. It’s tough to slow down when you’re always checking new messages coming in.
4. Focus on people. Too often we spend time with friends and family, or meet with colleagues, and we’re not really there with them. We talk to them but are distracted by devices. We are there, but our minds are on things we need to do. We listen, but we’re really thinking about ourselves and what we want to say. Just try being 100% there for the other person.
5. Appreciate nature. Take the time to go outside and really observe nature. Exercise outdoors when you can, or find other outdoor activities to enjoy such as nature walks, hiking, etc.
6. Learn to Eat slower. Be mindful of each bite. Appreciate the flavours and textures. Just focus on that one activity. No book, no phone.
7. Drive slower. Make it a habit to slow down when you drive. Appreciate your surroundings. Make it a peaceful time to contemplate your life, and the things you’re passing.
8. Find pleasure in chores. This is related to being present. Whatever you’re doing, be fully present. For example, when washing dishes, instead of rushing through it as a boring chore to be finished quickly, really feel the sensations of the water, the suds, and the dishes. It can really be an enjoyable task if you learn to see it that way. The same applies to other chores — washing the car, sweeping, dusting, laundry — and anything you do.
9. Single-task. Focus on one thing at a time. When you feel the urge to switch to other tasks, pause, breathe, and pull yourself back.
10. Breathe. When you find yourself speeding up and stressing out, pause, and take a deep slow breath. By fully focusing on each breath, you bring yourself back to the present, and slow yourself down. Next time you get into your car take a moment to take three deep breathes before turning on the engine.
11. Know what’s Important. The simple version of simplifying is “Identify what’s important, and eliminate the rest.” So take time to identify the most important things in your life.
12. Say No to Extra Commitments. Now that you’ve identified what’s important, you need to start saying “No” to things that aren’t on your important list.
13. Limit Tasks. Each morning, list your 1-3 most important tasks. Limiting your tasks helps you focus, and acknowledges you’re not going to get everything done in one day.
14. Carve out Un-distraction Time. When are you going to do your most important work? Schedule it with a block of time (1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, whatever works for you). Make this your most sacred appointment. Just do the most important task, then the next one if you have time.
15. Slow Down. We rush through our days, almost in a single frenetic anxiety-filled non-stop movement. Instead, slow down. Life won’t collapse if you aren’t rushing from task to task, email to email. You can pause, take a moment to reflect, smile, and enjoy the current task before moving on.
16. Create Space. We cram our tasks and meetings together, and leave no spaces between them. The space between things is just as important as the things themselves. Leave a little space between meetings, even tasks. Take a break. Enjoy the space.
17. Give yourself time to get ready and get there. If you’re constantly rushing to appointments in an anxious state, it’s because you haven’t allowed enough time.
18. Practice being comfortable with doing nothing. One thing I’ve noticed is that when people have to wait, they become impatient or uncomfortable. Try standing in line and be patient.
19. Realize that if it doesn’t get done, that’s OK. There’s always tomorrow. The world likely won’t end if you don’t get that task done today.
20. Get in touch with your Creativity. Tap into your artistic side.
What Does the Future look like Beyond Covid-19
We all will at some point emerge from the restrictions imposed by Covid-19. Therefore, it is essential we purposely try and maintain the lessons we have learnt and experienced from living a slower life.
We do not want to get suckered back on the merry go round of a fast paced life.
A recent research article by Giana Eckhardt and Katharina Husemann addresses this very point. ‘How to maintain a slower pace of life after lockdown,’ offers three key areas of focus:
- Slowing down your body
If possible, resist the urge to re-connect with fast modes of transport to get to and from work such as the bus and train.
Try to continue with slower methods of moving such as walking or cycling. Besides the physical benefits their research indicates a slower pace allows for a stronger connection for deep reflection between body and mind.
- Controlling your technology use
During lockdown, technology has been used to revitalize meaningful connections to those important to us. It has been beneficial reinforcing close connections around the world.
They urge us to continue these meaningful practices as you emerge from lockdown. This helps cultivate long lasting close communities, rather than shallow and short, relations with others.
- Limiting your activities
During lockdown, activities and choices were limited such as fast food and dining experiences.
They remind to try and remember the feeling of making your own food, and sharing it with your household, rather than running back to eating out and on the go. As some form of normality resumes try to maintain practices like stopping work to eat your lunch in the middle of the day, and continue to take breaks, preferably with others and outdoors when you can.
At some point, Covid-19 will pass. There will be staggering loss and enormous economic devastation. That tragedy cannot be overstated. For years, we will be trying to rebuild the broken world. But perhaps the slower lifestyle in these months can help put the pieces back together. And perhaps a more contemplative, deliberate way of living can become permanent.
So how can we use the lessons of the last few months to rebalance our lives?
Could you spend a bit less time socialising?
Could you negotiate longer-term homeworking so you don’t lose time to commuting?
If you don’t practice being present, slowing down, enjoying the moment right now, when will you practice?
What are you practicing now instead?
Resetting boundaries around your time is key – try taking some control back and say ‘no’ to something if it doesn’t align with your new slower pace.
It could be meditation, a walk in a park, reading a book or simply having a slower morning. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it makes you happy and it’s something that allows you to remain calm and stress-free.
Don’t allow this major time in our lifetime go to waste. Purposely embrace a slower living simpler lifestyle.
What actions can you take to make a difference?