Slow living movement

Slow Living Movement; What Is It and How Best to Live It

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“Being Slow means that you control the rhythms of your own life. You decide how fast you have to go in any given context. If today I want to go fast, I go fast; if tomorrow I want to go slow, I go slow. What we are fighting for is the right to determine our own tempos.”- Carlo Petrini on slow living movement

I went online and found a trend that is the opposite of what we are told daily. Today we are bombarded with productivity, from blogs, websites, applications and consulting firms. In our imposed restlessness we keep finding ways to go the extra mile. Modern society is about doing more, faster, harder and stronger despite the inability of our own bodies to keep up.

While it is understandable that it serves the purpose of growing our careers and relationships, we cannot ignore how much is taken from us in the process. We cram our work days with endless tasks that leave us with a sense of shame if we fail to complete. Slacking off not the best look right? The demand to produce more, surpass yesterday’s limits is ingrained constantly to the point we forget that we are humans and not machines.

Just as any other addiction to illegal drugs, productivity can affect he brain so much and lead to having maladaptive behaviors. What is even worse is how it differs from substances. This behavior is required and encouraged by our society. We get gratification and admiration from harming ourselves. An example is financial security where financial bonuses are given for the extra work put in. This is not to say being productive is a bad thing, moderation in everything is the best. Sometimes going the slow route is the best option. This leads to our topic of discussion today, the slow living movement.

What is the slow living movement?

woman sitting on brown stone near green leaf trees at daytime
Image: Min An

The movement began back in 1986 when Carlo Petrini protested against the opening of Mc Donald at the Piazza di Spagna. The protestors stood for sustainability when it came to food through preservation of traditional cuisines through livestock and grain farming. This is a direct opposite to fast food which is harmful for the animals, environment and the consumers. The slow food movement to this day focuses on food quality over quantity as well as promoting local small businesses while reducing overproduction and food waste.

With this the slow living movement was born as a lifestyle that encourages a slow approach to the chaotic life. As an acronym the ‘S’ refers to sustainable, the ‘L’ refers to local (use materials and products that are produced locally), the ‘O’ refers to organic, (avoid products that have been genetically engineered or mass-produced), and the ‘W’ refers to whole, (unprocessed)

According to Carl Honoré as stated in his book In Praise of Slow, “It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Do everything as well as you can instead of as fast as you can. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”

“The slow living movement also focuses on the idea that a fast-paced way of living is chaotic, whereas a slower pace encourages enjoyment of life, a deeper appreciation of sensory experiences, and the ability to ‘live in the present moment.”- Wikipedia

This movement supports enjoying your life by being present in the moment to see the simplicities we often walk past. You have a chance to prioritize what truly matters to your life. Escaping from the go, go, go conditioning, you focus on what makes you happy. It changes your way of thinking and acting to make your life more suitable and finding gratification in it.

Mindful living has been on the table for centuries and the pandemic contributed to the rebirth of slow living into society through social media apps like TikTok where creators advertise it. In lock down, with no distractions, we were forced to reevaluate our lives and how we have been existing but not living.

According to Deloitte’s research, burnout in the workplace is becoming increasingly more prevalent. Studies show a 5-9% year-over-year increase in burnout rates nationally, yet 36% of employees claim their organizations are doing nothing to prevent burnout. The percentage of people suffering from burnout can be as high as 76%. That’s a lot of people feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

This means the ball in in your court; you have to be responsible for your own wellness. By reconnecting with your purpose and getting to know yourself you will be living a mindful, sustainable and simplistic life filled with a lot more joy.

How to incorporate slow living into your life

Practice mindfulness when creating a routine

Slow living as a concept does not mean you don’t work or when you do you slack off. It is a change of how you work where you are mindful of yourself when working. Give your calendar some breathing room instead of piling tasks on top of tasks that end up overwhelming you. The always on the go approach may work for some but you need to slow it down and enjoy the moment. If you do not like running yet want to exercise then stop and go for a walk or any other activity that you can appreciate.

Take an in-depth look at your journal where you document the day to day activities. Once you have, you will find things that don’t make you happy or grant fulfillment in which case it is time for a change. Where the activity is not favorable to you, replace it with something that better contributes to your well-being. It might be uncomfortable and scary to derail from the norm but the impact will be a meaningful life. Make it so you can enjoy your daily routine, find contentment in it and be able to nurture yourself.

Mindful consumption
person holding sliced vegetable
Image: Maarten van den Heuvel

“Slow Living means structuring your life around meaning and fulfillment. Similar to ‘voluntary simplicity‘ and ‘downshifting,’ it emphasizes a less-is-more approach, focusing on the quality of your life…Slow Living addresses the desire to lead a more balanced life and to pursue a more holistic sense of well-being in the fullest sense of the word. In addition to the personal advantages, there are potential environmental benefits as well. When we slow down, we often use fewer resources and produce less waste, both of which have a lighter impact on the earth.” — Beth Meredith and Eric Storm

With the world consumed with speed, an example being fast food, fast fashion, we hardly have enough time to take a step back and realize the damage caused by what we consume.

Fast fashion promotes excessive consumerism and throwaway culture where clothes are seen as disposable commodities. The firms let consumers get more fashionable clothing and product differentiation at cheaper prices. These clothes you buy satisfy a temporary need but have a huge impact on the environment lasting years. In an attempt to reduce costs and speed up production, cheap toxic textile dyes are used which then pollute the water. They emit huge quantities of greenhouse gases, use massive quantities of energy, chemicals and water as well as use up non renewable resources.

The fast food industry doesn’t shy away from harming consumers and the environment. Obesity, Learning and memory problems, digestion problems and mental health impact are some of the consequences of consuming a lot of fast food. To the environment the industry creates carbon footprints, fuel consumption, packaging and food waste, water contamination, and emission of volatile organic compounds. The non-biodegradable packaging is picked by the wind and water creating litter that pollutes the water consequently harming the organisms living in the water. Animals being farmed for consumption are also treated in cruel manners.

Like Carlo Petrini fought for, what you consume should be sustainable to you and the ecosystem. Traditional cuisines that focused on quality that can be found in small businesses should be the go to choice. Instead of choosing fast and convenient foods, opt for healthy and nourishing foods. It could be having your own garden or buying organic foods which lessen your exposure to toxins.

The same applies to fashion where purchasing quality items of clothing will ensure you get longer wear before they rip. Thrifting is also a great way for you to come across quality items of clothing Trends are for a short time and contributing to them means sacrificing our future and the environment.

Connect with your community
slow living movement, connect with your community
Image: Matheus Bertelli

When modernization came about we forgot about our own communities instead opting for the online communities. A lack of diversity in activity and interests were some of the reasons why we turned our attention elsewhere. The slow living movement is about mindfulness in our actions to find fulfillment and share it with others.

To reconcile and engage with your community you can look at online groups or centers where they post about upcoming events that help in building bonds. You can join in to see what happens and get to know the people well. If the events aren’t your cup of tea you can then suggest trying your own twist in the activities. Doing this, you are more likely to have personal and developmental growth, social understanding and policy making involvement.

When we live Slow, we give back and become more strongly connected to the Earth, to our communities, to our neighbors and to ourselves. A Slow Life is one that seeks the right balance between spirituality, sensuality, introspection and community.  A Slow Life recognizes our role as members of our bioregions and of our Earth, taking a nourishing, rather than extractive approach- slowlivingsummit.org

Purposeful living

What is the meaning of life?

A question many have asked over time but there has never been a concrete answer. This doesn’t mean your existence means nothing because you serve a purpose, whether big or small you are here for a reason. Your life purpose lies in who you are as a person; your goals, ambition and passion.

Living purposefully is about following the things you love, breaking outside your comfort zone to see what is outside. Whether personally or professionally you have to find your purpose that drives you to be who you are and to do better. Find what you love, what makes you laugh and cry, what fills you with satisfaction and fulfillment in life.

As you transition into slow living make sure you include the things you love such as hobbies in your day to day life. Get enjoyment and personal growth from how you live.

Bottom Line

Slow living is a way of life that encourages mindfulness and presence. The constant need to do something that overwhelms you will no longer be a problem if you adopt this concept into your life as it encourages enjoying what you do. You don’t have to choose between work and your personal life. Instead creates harmony with all that is you.

There are numerous benefits you will get from adopting this way of living. Such as:

  • You become self-aware of your actions and decisions
  • Elimination of chaos in your life to a peaceful way of living
  • You become more mindful of what you are consuming and how much.
  • You build a healthy community around yourself
  • You have a healthy work life balance
  • Your way of life changes from mere existence to living meaningfully
  • A dip in anxiety and stress in regards to losing control of your life
  • You get to choose how to live instead of forcing yourself to fit into an uncomfortable mold

Book Recommendations on the Topic

In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honoré

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living Shauna Niequist

Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World by Brooke McAlary

The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm and Mindful in a Fast-Paced World by Haemin Sunim

Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner

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