For many of us, daily life seems to have become a never-ending list of things to be done and tasks to be completed – get up early, make breakfast, pack a lunch, get the kids to school, reply to those emails and on and on. Life will always be busy but that doesn’t mean there’s no time to slow down.
By settling into a gentler pace of life, we can find the time we need to live in the moment and increase our sense of wellbeing by simply relaxing a little.
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What is slow living?
So, what is slow living? For some it’s a lifestyle choice which affects every decision but for most of us, it is all about making small changes which help us to decelerate the pace of modern life.
Essentially, living slowly means allowing yourself the time to enjoy all the little things and do everything as well as possible rather than as fast as possible.
It can be difficult to sink into this reflective, purposeful lifestyle but doing so promises to prioritise wellbeing over achievement – all too often we focus on ticking off a list of tasks accomplished rather than enjoying the experience. Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed, explains, “The central tenet of the slow philosophy is taking the time to do things properly, and thereby enjoy them more.”
Living slowly allows us to gain more time for the things that are most important to us. When we define what is most important to our own wellbeing, and say no to activities and behaviours which are not, our lifestyle becomes more enriching.
We can take a slower approach to most aspects of our lives. Slow fashion encourages us to think more about the clothes we wear and consider where each item will be in the days, months, years to come before we make a purchase. Slow travel keeps us off the beaten track, really engaging with a place rather than just the guidebook.
It’s all a bit hygge
Living life at a gentler pace is often associated with the Danish phenomenon of hygge. Creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people is central to the Danish way of life and could be part of why they are so often named one of the world’s happiest countries.
Spending time together, curling up with a hot drink, baking your favourite sweet treat and enjoying an evening by candlelight are all particularly hygge and part of a slower lifestyle.
Similar to the German idea of gemütlichkeit and the Dutch gezelligheid, hygge is all about wellbeing and embracing Danish culture is a simple step towards embracing slow living.
Of course, another important part of slow living is slow food.
What is the slow food movement?
The slow food movement can be traced to 1980s Italy where, after a demonstration on the intended site of a McDonald’s at the Spanish Steps in Rome, Carlo Petrini made it his mission to defend regional traditions, a slow pace of life and good food. Since then the movement has become much broader.
The Slow Food movement champions local ingredients and produce, with many of its supporters working to reduce food miles (the distance produce travels from the fields to our tables). In the UK, the organisation is also promoting bio-diversity and working to save plants that are at risk of extinction.
The slow food movement isn’t just about the ingredients though – it’s also about slowing down the cooking process and even how we eat.
According to its philosophy, the food we eat should be grown and bought locally, prepared with care and eaten with appreciation. Taking the time to really enjoy the meals we make and eating mindfully is a brilliant way to slow down at dinner time.
As you eat, notice the colours, flavours, textures and aromas of every element on your plate. Rid yourself of the usual distractions – keep your phone away from the table and switch Netflix off – and focus on the dish you have prepared.
Studies have shown that eating in this way is good for the mind, giving us a mood-boosting refresh, and has positive effects on the body too.
Food writer Gizzi Erskine, author of Slow: Food Worth Taking Time Over (HQ, £25) is a big fan of slow cooking and taking your time to prepare a good meal.
“One of the advantages of slow cooking is that the effort is all the prep, and once its in the oven, you can just simply forget about whilst its cooking. Cooking slower, for longer, helps to develop much more intense and deep flavours,” she says.
“There is an incomparable richness and depth of flavour that is achieved by slow cooking, that you just can’t cheat, and that is what is really satisfying.
“Stews, ragus, roasts- these are all the foods that evoke cosiness and warmth, filling the house with delicious. It is food to be shared with family and friends, its gutsy, it suits both a bottle of red or a cup of tea and every culture has something that is simmered down on its lowest notch.”
3 slow food recipes created by Gizzi Erskine
This classic recipe is perfect for when you need some hearty comfort food to cheer you up. Cook for two hours for maximum flavour.
This Korean favourite can be made the traditional way with pork belly, or you can leave this out and use vegan kimchi for a plant-based treat.
This tasty vegetarian recipe created by Gizzi Erskine is slow-cooked and full of flavour.
Leave out the eggs to make it into a delicious vegan meal.
11 slow living tips for beginners
Begin your day the right way
Spend a few minutes at the very beginning of your day exactly as you would like. Read a few pages of a book slowly and with intention, write your musings in a journal or simply sit quietly with your first cup of tea. Make time for yourself and set your pace for the rest of the day.
While many choose to cut down on screen time, living slowly doesn’t mean you have to do get rid of all your digital devices. Instead, embark on a digital declutter – go through your phone and get rid of apps which you rarely use or which do nothing but steal your time. Try to use technology in a more mindful way and make it work for you rather than the other way around.
Connect with nature
Time spent outside in nature has wide-reaching health benefits. Taking a walk through a local beauty spot, or just wandering the garden, helps us set a slower pace and re-connect with the natural world too. Notice the small things and give yourself time to appreciate the natural beauty around you.
Give yourself time
We are all guilty of a bit of clock watching every now and again. Slow living is a mindset as much as a lifestyle – allow yourself to take the time to enjoy every part of your day, even if that simply means slowing down your hurried walk to work. Things will take as long as they take, accepting this is a big step.
Plant a seed
Slow living is all about living life at a more relaxed pace. In the modern world we are all accustomed to being able to buy exactly what we want whenever we want it. Follow a simpler routine and plant a seed, watch it grow and reap the rewards of fresh produce grown at home.
Busy lifestyles often equal cluttered homes so why not take the opportunity to simplify your living space? Re-organise your space so it suits a slower pace of life and donate all those bits and bobs that you don’t use and which don’t make you happy.
Remove any distractions from the dinner table and focus entirely on the physical sensations of eating a carefully prepared meal. We are all guilty of eating without thought but slowing down can improve our health as we are better able to notice when we’re full this way. Find something new to cook and eat with thought at BBC Good Food.
You don’t need to change every aspect of your life to go slow but eliminating activities that you have no interest in is a good place to start. We all end up going along to events or taking up activities which we don’t really want to be involved in through some sense of obligation. Embrace the joy of missing out and make time for those things you love.
Eschew Netflix for just one day a week and make yourself take part in some more vintage entertainment. Break out a board game, sit down with a really good book, take up a new craft or have a go at baking those salted caramel brownies you’ve always fancied.
Take a slow trip
When you head out on holiday, don’t make too many plans and allow yourself to wander off the beaten track. Explore the places that locals like to go, linger over lunch and just sit on the beach until the sun sets. Travel with intention and without a schedule for more in-depth experiences.
Keep free time free
It is all too easy to notice a free afternoon in a busy schedule and quickly rush to fill it. Leave your free time free and see what happens. Let your day evolve organically and you’ll feel satisfied at the end of it.
Our favourite slow living podcasts
If you’re in need of any more inspiration before you start slowing down, or just need a little encouragement to keep you going, hearing from others who have travelled the same path is the perfect place to start. We’ve rounded up a few of our favourite podcasts for slow living.
Brooke McAlary embarked on her own slow living journey in 2011, determined to reconnect with what was really important in her life. Since 2015, that has included this brilliant podcast where she speaks to others who have said no to living life at 110%. It’s inspiring stuff.
Be more productive, creative, and resilient through the simple act of slowing down. That is the message of Jocelyn K. Glei’s podcast and, with interviews with deep thinkers, artists, and entrepreneurs, navigating work and life at a more sustainable pace seems within easy reach.
Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus come together to discuss how to live a meaningful life with less. With plenty of guests and all sorts of tips on how to live a fulfilled life with minimum faff, the weekly podcast is a great place to start looking for slow living tips.
Photo by Max, Yang Deng, Daniel Hjalmarsson, Jonas Jacobsson, rawpixel on Unsplash