Whether 2020 has had you juggling working from home and childcare, or you’ve had more free time on your hands in lockdown and beyond, many of us are striving to lead a slower lifestyle and make time to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. But what exactly is slow living? And how can we get started?
A recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that almost three-quarters of us have felt so stressed in the past year that they have been overwhelmed.
This is perhaps to be expected; research has repeatedly shown that we are working longer hours than ever, with technology blurring the boundaries between working hours and leisure time.
But the feeling of being rushed off your feet or spinning different plates constantly is not an inevitable fact of life. There is a growing movement of individuals and communities striving to cultivate a slower, more mindful lifestyle, in which wellbeing is prioritized and gratitude practiced frequently – known as the slow living movement.
Slow living, at its core, is about rejecting chaos and materialism in order to complete activities at a leisurely pace, with a relaxed mindset.
‘Slow’ is, for some, taken as an acronym as well as an adjective, standing for sustainable, local, organic and wholesome.
Some apply this ideology to all major aspects of their life, living rurally or in a mobile home, growing their own food and rejecting corporate jobs. But practicing a slower lifestyle in your current home and job is also possible - those practicing a slow lifestyle may simply wake early to make their own loose-leaf tea or iced coffee, and to stretch and journal before work, rather than waking to a last-minute alarm and grabbing a drink to-go on the way to the office, for example.
With this in mind, we are taking the time today to outline a few simple practices you can incorporate into your daily routine to carve out quiet space for yourself and escape the rat race.
7 slow living practices for beginners
1. Ditch your alarm clock
Adults are urged to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, but the majority of us aren’t reaching that amount. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may feel groggy for up to four hours after waking – but well-rested people can expect to feel energized within 15 minutes of waking up.
While it may seem counter-productive, many people swear that avoiding alarm clocks has improved the quality of their sleep, helping them to fall asleep earlier and wake earlier.
If you are worried you will miss the start of your working day/ child’s school day/exercise class without an alarm, you can set a “safety alarm” at the latest possible interval you can manage – but by letting your body clock get into a natural rhythm, you’ll almost certainly wake up ahead of time.
2. Make time for breakfast
Breakfast is known as ‘the most important meal of the day’ for a reason. If you’ve fallen into the habit of eating at your desk or grabbing something between tasks, you may well feel calmer and more in control of your day by taking the time to make and eat a healthy meal.
For more information, you may wish to read our blog on creating a morning ritual for self-care.
3. Create a ritual around your favourite food or drink
It’s not just breakfast that can be slowed down – any meal, snack or drink break can be approached more mindfully.
Avoid purchasing pre-made items where possible and take the time to make your own dish or cup, noticing the smells and textures as you prepare it. Many people find the process of making fancy coffees, loose-leaf teas, juices or smoothies relaxing. Once your food or drink is made, make time to savour it rather than eating in front of your computer or TV.
4. Try candle-gazing meditation
Candle gazing meditation, also known as Trataka, is one of the most ancient forms of meditation practice. It is widely regarded as helpful in bringing about a calm and reflective mood.
Any kind of candle can be used for Trakata and you can practice for as little as ten minutes to feel the benefit. To help you set up your first practice, we’ve published a blog post with guidance.
5. Practise yoga
It may seem a little cliché, but the benefits – both physically and mentally - of incorporating yoga into your routine are not to be underestimated.
Whether you are looking to minimize anxiety or reconnect with your body, or build strength or work towards a specific pose or flow, there will be a yoga routine that’s right for you. Don’t be afraid to try different videos or teachers, to practice for short intervals or to modify poses with props if needed.
6. Keep a gratitude journal
Always wanting more than you have is a defining feature of the ‘rat race’. We are socialized to want better jobs, bigger houses, flashier cars, luxury holidays and clothes.
In striving for these improvements constantly, we often forget to make time to appreciate what we already have, leading to less quality time with loved ones. Writing a weekly journal answering the following prompts can help us to see the beauty in our day-to-day lives:
What am I grateful for this week?
What actions can I take to view each day as a blessing?
What have been the three most beautiful moments of this week?
7. Connect with your local small business community
A recent poll by E.ON found that more than half of us have made more of an effort to buy from small, local businesses during lockdown – a habit which two-fifths of people intend to continue as restrictions ease.
As well as connecting you with high-quality products with a story – which, in itself, will incentivize you to use your belongings more mindfully – small businesses are a cornerstone of local communities. Beyond products, they often host events and community spaces, whether online or in-person, which will help you feel more connected and grounded.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t chains with fantastic services, but there is something special about building relationships that go beyond one purchase.