What is Slow Living & How Do You Start?
Slow living is intentionally behaving in a way that calms the nervous system, aligns values with actions, and cultivates everyday joy.
Wikipedia defines Slow Living as “a lifestyle which encourages a slower approach to aspects of everyday life.” I define Slow Living as: Intentionally behaving in a way that calms my nervous system, aligns my values with my actions, and cultivates everyday joy in my life. I define it as a rebellious revolution against hustle culture. I define it as necessary. I define it as survival.
Most people I know are unwell right now. The impacts of the global pandemic, recent political upheaval, climate change being seen around the world, and (of course) the constant speeding up of everything, every single damn day. There is this low-grade panic that I sense in everyone I meet. As if there is a tiny voice of fear whispering, “Move faster so that it won’t catch you, stay logged in, keep checking, keep scrolling, it’s all going to hell, keep running, don’t stop”… and then the flip side of the amygdala response – “hide, stay inside, don’t let them see you, don’t let them know you, stay small, stay quiet.”
None of this feels good. This unseen, but heavily felt, pressure is a sign of an impaired nervous system. Unchecked, this can lead to severe illness. It’s time to take action now, and it is why I define slow living as a conscious choice to survive. I believe that individually we need to find a way to reclaim our wellness – and collectively, as a society, if we don’t do this, we’ll see certain destruction. We are living in a world that is not built to support us in our wellness, and we must actively change this by collectively doing less – our humanity depends on it.
Dr. Jenelle Kim says that “Slow living is a conscious approach to life that involves living slower so you can appreciate each moment and prioritize what matters in life,” This way of living is, of course, far removed from what society has normalized. The belief that we must work hard to be rewarded has become ingrained in us. Slow living challenges us to contemplate life (and our intrinsic value) differently and allows us to experience ourselves, and the world around us, more fully. Slow living is choosing our wellness, and our happiness over anything (and everything) else.
Signs of stress, impaired nervous system and/or burn-out
increased alcohol use
Benefits of Slow Living
reduced muscle tension
lower blood pressure
improved mental clarity
increased flow state
The benefits of slow living are clear, so the next question is, how do you start? When you’re deep in the hustle, running on the hamster wheel at full speed, it is challenging to see a path out. I’ve been there, I get it. Here are a few things you can do to lay the bricks of the path that will become your exit strategy.
The first step is acknowledging that you want something different in your life and believing that it is possible for you. You don’t have to know how it’s going to happen, you just need to make the decision in your heart and mind that something is going to be different, you are going to change the rules and take back your wellness and your joy. This is a great time to talk with your partner, kids, or friends about your decision. Building a support system to help you transition into a new chapter of your life is extremely valuable. However, it is good to remember that the people you share your decision with might have a negative reaction – that’s okay, that is just the fear playing out inside of them. That doesn’t mean it is the wrong decision on your part. Have patience, have compassion, and stay the course.
The second step is beginning to create a little bit of breathing room for yourself. Start with 5 minutes if that is all you can find. Allow yourself to sit quietly for 5 minutes. Stare at the ceiling, listen to a song, listen to a 5-minute meditation, or practice deep breathing. I highly recommend setting a timer so that you can fully relax for the full 5 minutes that you’ve committed to giving yourself. This is self-love. This is self-care. This is the first step towards what you want.
Another small way to begin to reclaim your time, energy, and wellness is to unplug. When you unplug regularly and don’t accept the distractions our modern tech brings, you open yourself up to increased peace, and new possibilities & experiences. When you unplug, you can be present in the world around you. This simple act is incredibly healing.
Finally, embrace mindfulness as your lifeline. Mindfulness is being fully present in your experience. Mindfulness, when utilized in all its power, can turn cleaning the cat box into a ritual of love and purpose – but we don’t have to start there. Start with your cup of coffee or tea in the morning and make it a relaxing touchstone in your day. Measure carefully, pour slowly, and inhale the aroma before each sip. If the rest of your day is busy, doing this one thing slowly will have a ripple effect, creating a bit more peace and stillness in your day.
If you’re interested in slow living and the art of intentionally living your life on purpose – join me on this journey by subscribing to my newsletter at mindyaisling.com.