Slow living is a phenomenon that has seen a rise in popularity in recent years. You may have seen the term mentioned in self-help books, podcasts or thrown around on TikTok. However, for those who are unaware of what it is, we'll begin with a brief definition.
Slow living is a lifestyle where people endeavour to appreciate the simple things in life. They make a conscious effort to slow down their lives and strive to appreciate life on a deeper, more meaningful level, as opposed to simply doing as many things as they can at maximum speed.
People who partake in slow living try to live mindfully, such as by practising mindful eating. This is where individuals try to stay mentally present while they eat, instead of doing mindless activities such as scrolling on social media or watching television. They may focus on things such as the flavours and textures of what they're eating while allowing thoughts to flow through them.
For many, this makes eating and drinking a more enjoyable experience, which increases their gratitude. For example, the simple act of eating a sandwich is transformed when one considers the time and care a farmer took to grow the tomatoes and lettuce that are inside it, or the baker who carefully made and kneaded the dough that forms the bread.
Slow living has seen a sharp spike in popularity in the last decade or so. This is perhaps not that surprising given how fast-paced the modern world is. The twenty-first century's rapid growth in technology has made it difficult for people to separate their work and school lives from their personal lives.
Whereas before computers and phones, students could go home and enjoy their free time away from school, nowadays teachers can send emails and set online assignments that students must attend to even at home. This makes it difficult for people to get 'me' time and detach from the stresses of work and school life, overall making life much more hectic.
Slow living can remedy this difficulty. The lifestyle helps people to take time to appreciate the small things in life, such as the simple pleasure of a cup of tea or a good book, and reminds people of what actually matters in life.
So now that you know what slow living is, how can you get involved?
The answer is, many ways! The great thing about slow living is how easy it is to partake in it. There's no manual you need to buy or philosophy books you need to read (although feel free to do either of these if they appeal to you). You just need to take the time to do the things that you find meaningful.
Many people think that if they're not constantly doing things deemed "productive", then they're wasting their time. However, this is untrue. Anything you're doing that brings you pleasure is most definitely a good use of time, no matter how "unproductive" it seems.
Although different things bring different people pleasure, I will nevertheless offer some ideas for activities that encourage slow living to help you get started.
Gardening is a great activity for people who want to dip their toes into slow living. It helps to ground you in nature, and appreciate how simple human existence actually is - everything we need to survive is in the world around us! While technology and such may be useful, they're not actually necessary to bring happiness.
Multiple studies have shown just how good meditation is for people. It can help to reduce stress and has a calming effect on both the mind and the body. Meditation is a good way of helping you stay in the present, something which is important in slow living.
There are many tutorials on YouTube to help get you into meditation. You could maybe start with a shorter five-minute meditation session, before moving onto longer, or even self-guided, sessions.
Even if you don't consider yourself the best poet, writing poetry is still an enjoyable, calming activity to indulge in. You don't have to show your poems to anyone and can keep them purely for your own eyes. Writing poetry can help you to express yourself, and to declutter your thoughts by getting them down on paper.
If you're unsure of what to write about, try starting with something simple and visible, like nature. All you need to do is go outside with a pen and paper, and let your thoughts flow out.
Alternatively - read poetry!
If you're really not keen on writing, then reading poetry is also a good way to stay grounded and appreciate the simple things in life. There are many poems that draw attention to the beauty of small things in life in an eloquent and moving manner.
Some poems I would recommend checking out are The Orange by Wendy Cope and Dust of Snow by Robert Frost, both of which focus on seemingly insignificant things that bring happiness. Poets.org offer a great service where you can subscribe to them and they'll email you a poem a day, which is a nice way of being introduced to new poets and poems that you wouldn't have otherwise encountered.
Doing something creative like painting a picture or clay modelling is a good way of reminding yourself of the simple pleasures in life. These things have no inherent purpose other than to be enjoyable. Indulging in them can help you slow down and remind you to focus on yourself, as well as that there is more to life than the things that are stressing you out.
To conclude: the philosopher Alan Watts criticised the common suggestion that life is a journey in which we're all striding purposefully towards some important goal. He instead compares life to a dance, something to be enjoyed and revelled in. This idea draws back to a core philosophy of slow living - having a life that makes you content and at peace is more than enough for it to be considered fulfilling and meaningful.
"The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves." - Alan Watts