Hello chaps! I'm Seth the Sloth and I'm just here, hanging out in my tree, watching the world go by. I'm known as one of the world's slowest animals and my motto in life is "just go with the flow, bro (or sis)". There's not much that gets me out of my zen mode except when I come across the constant hustle and bustle of modern, fast-paced living. Many of you hoomans seem to be busy all the time, I feel exhausted just thinking about it! Let me try and lure you into the delightful realms of the slow life. It might take me a while, so grab a coffee or tea (fair trade pleez) and get comfortable...
What is slowing down?
The concept of slowing down or slow living is gaining increasing popularity to counteract the fast-paced, busy and stress-inducing lifestyle many of us are sucked into nowadays. A slower, "less is more" approach much like Minimalism applied not only to your possessions but also your time, after all the most precious "thing" we have! Slowing down means placing quality over quantity and switching off from external distractions and technology now and again to focus on what is truly important in our lives. Like spending more time nurturing our relationships and connecting with nature. Or giving our body and mind time to recover through rest. Usually slowing down also means saying no to non-essential or non-urgent requests that nibble away at our valuable time, something many of us struggle with.
Where do I start?
Of course, we can't all just drop what we are doing and spend each day swaying in a hammock, does sound nice though doesn't it? Most people have families, jobs, pets, chores, and other commitments. But if we all just rebelled a little bit against the hectic lifestyle and the need to be constantly "busy" or "successful", we could allow ourselves to choose a slower pace. Check out Carl Honoré's TED talk In praise of slowness to get a first taste of the positive impacts which a slower life can bring. We also recommend the book, Escape Everything for some light hearted and thought provoking views on "the Trap" of modern life and how to escape it.
Adopt the mindset of Essentialism
With so many choices to make and so many distractions, largely due to an overwhelming influx of information through our electronic devices, we have become susceptible to increasing levels of stress and anxiety. The mindset of essentialism can help restore a greater sense of balance, perspective and focused intention into our lives. The book essentialism - The Disciplined Pursuit of Less is about prioritising and valuing our time so we can make wiser choices and the highest contribution to the things that matter most to us. This can help to simplify our life and reclaim back precious time that otherwise can be lost in the "black hole" of constant busyness and distractions.
Make time for yourself
This may sound like "easier said than done" especially for people with young children and demanding jobs. However, it's so important to make pockets of time during the day, week or month, however small they may be for some self-care. Ideally this shouldn't be time spent scrolling on a device but time dedicated to taking a breather and doing something that fulfills and/or relaxes you. For example, reading a book, doing yoga, exercising, playing an instrument or listening to music. Often, we worry too much about keeping others happy or trying to please everyone instead of making time for ourselves. Yet, when all is said and done, this is the one life we have, so let's make it count.
We found that a slower approach enabled us to take a step back, reflect upon our lives and re-evaluate our priorities. Only by allowing ourselves to have that time and space, were we able to move towards a more stress- free and self-determined life, that ultimately better matches our ideals.
Rush around less
We know from experience that rushing around doesn't help us do things better, it typically just creates unnecessary stress. A constant fast-paced and jam-packed routine can be harmful to our health and the link between chronic stress and illness has been documented in many studies. One of the biological explanations for how stress can affect our body, is that stressful situations activate the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which triggers the "fight or flight" survival response. This response enabled our pre-historic ancestors to react quickly to life threatening situations and predators. Faced with danger, the body is flooded with hormones (cortisone and adrenaline) that elevate the heart rate, increase blood pressure and give us an energy boost.
Nowadays, this response is activated when faced with everyday challenges, such as traffic jams, work pressure and family difficulties. Over time, repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body. The documentary Heal provides fascinating insights to the relationship between stress and our health as well as the importance of the mind-body connection on the human ability to heal.
Everyone needs to figure out which pace works best for them and which lifestyle changes make sense in their own lives in order to reduce stress levels. The article How not to hurry, by Leo Babauta offers some useful tips on how to achieve a slower-paced life.
Spend more time in nature
The slow and gentle pace of nature can inspire us to take our time and be patient. Observing natural ecosystems as models for our own behaviour can be explored in the principles of permaculture for example. Check out the It's in our nature section for a more in depth look at the benefits of being amongst nature.
In addition to spending time outdoors we can bring nature to our doorstep by growing something. By growing some vegetables, fruit, herbs or flowers, especially from seed we become more atuned to the rhythm of nature, its processes and the changing seasons. Check out the Rewilding Our Outdoor Spaces section for more information and tips.
Switch-off from technology
But first read this :) Like many people, we spend several hours of our day looking at screens. For work purposes but also to catch up on news and social media as well as entertainment. Technological devices are everywhere and it's hard to imagine our lives without them anymore.
Of course, they have many benefits, which for us include the chance to work remotely, video communication with family and friends abroad and access to information and education instantly. On the flip side, there are studies showing that spending too much time in front of screens, especially at night time, has negative effects on our sleep and potentially our eye sight. In addition, the damaging psychological effects of spending too many hours immersed in the digital world should not be underestimated. These include risk of screen addiciton, recurring feelings of loneliness and isolation as well as the potential for anxiety and depression.
To counteract these harmful effects, the practice of digital detox is on the rise with many people taking a break from their devices (or certain apps) for a day, weekend, several weeks or even months. The TED talk, Why our screens make us less happy, is worth watching for some motivation.
Like with all aspect of slowing down, it's about finding a balance that works for you, using technology to add-value to your life while knowing when to switch off to avoid the negative impacts.
Take time to source, prepare, and enjoy your food
One of the realisations we had when moving towards a whole-food plant- based (WFPB) diet was that previously we were not paying enough attention to where the food we were buying came from, what was in it and how nutritional it was. As we gradually increased our intake of wholesome (i.e. non-processed) plant foods and discovered the great variety of edible vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and nuts/seeds we also altered our food shopping, food preparation/cooking and of course eating habits. We started buying fruit and vegetables from local farmers markets or smaller (ideally organic) grocers. For dry produce such as grains, pasta, rice, nuts, dried fruit e.t.c. we explored bulk stores, which also avoid packaging and usually end up being cheaper when buying larger quantities. While the preparation and home cooking of plant foods in their natural form may require more time (peeling, chopping, blending e.t.c.) it's a worthwhile investment in terms of nourishing your body with healthy ingredients and giving you a greater connection to what you eat. Also restaurant or take-away meals tend to be more expensive and higher in sodium, fat and added sugars. Check out our recipes for some WFPB food inspiration.
Value what you already have, spend/ consume less
Slowing down and Minimalism both share the principle of mindful consumption in their philosophies. While a few years ago, we would frequently buy new things for a short lived burst of satisfaction, we now try to appreciate what we have and get maximum wear and usability out of it. With less focus on materialism and more focus on intrinsic values (e.g. family, friendships and health) comes a sense of calm and purpose to resist the constant desire to want something more. What helps us maintain the approach of mindful or 'slow' consumption is the avoidance of exposure to advertising through TV, magazines, catalogues, or social media accounts that often try to sell us something newer, prettier, or trendier, thereby implying that our current life or belongings aren't good enough. Being frugal and mindful about spending money is an important part of slowing down because it puts the focus on experiences and relationships, not things. The book the The Art of Frugal Hedonism is a quirky guide for how you can live better while consuming less, without foregoing enjoyment and pleasure.
Take a digital detox day and spend time in nature