Does life seem to be a long list of never-ending tasks? Step off the fast track by following our slow living plan
Stress. We all know what it feels like. At some point in the past year, a disconcerting 74 percent of us have felt ‘overwhelmed or unable to cope’. We also know that modern living is in part to blame – further data reveals that work pressures, busy social calendars and financial concerns are leaving many Brits feeling drained. And, while a certain amount of stress is a normal part of life, too much of the stuff can have a negative effect on health, leading to minor symptoms such as headaches and upset stomachs, as well as more major ones such as high blood pressure and chest pains. Fortunately, there is a simple concept that can help you to escape the chaos and feel instantly calmer, all the while still getting things done – it’s called slow living and it’s all about making small changes that will help to decrease the pace of your day-to-day activities. If this sounds a bit similar to the Danish concept of hygge, you’ll be interested to know that slow living began in Italy during the 1980s. “The concept of slow lifestyles started with the slow food movement, which was founded to encourage more traditional food production processes in response to the fast food industry that emerged at that time,” explains Siddhi Mehta, founder of slow food company Rhythm 108 (rhythm108.com). “It emphasises a gentler approach to aspects of everyday life, by encouraging us to take a moment to appreciate the small, daily things that we usually overlook, which are in fact unique and special.”
Indeed, living slowly doesn’t mean that you must stop everything you’re doing – you can still get the 6am train to work, pay the bills, meet friends for lunch or go to the gym for the evening. The main principle of slow living is that you take the time to do things properly, rather than doing them as fast as possible. “This way of living means being present in what you do and focusing as much on how you do those things,” explains Siddhi. “This will encourage you to enjoy what you’re doing, rather than just doing it mindlessly.” This might mean looking out of the train and noticing the landscape, or simply tuning into the taste, smell and texture of the food you’re eating. It really is that easy.
A key component of this approach is the slow food movement, which doesn’t only mean eating at a decelerated pace but also sourcing and preparing food carefully. Enjoying the process of eating is also key (which might mean noticing the textures, flavours, colours and aromas of the food you eat), as is disconnecting from the television to sit down with family and really revel in the company of those you’re dining with. “Culturally, food has always played a social role,” adds Siddhi. “It helps people to form close and real connections with new friends, old family, or even the environment.”
Why slow down? As a movement that emphasises taking the time to do things properly and enjoying them more, slow living is the antithesis of today’s fast-paced society – and that’s why we need it now more than ever. “In the age of fast-moving technology and constant stimulation, studies show that anxiety-related health issues are on the rise – there’s more loneliness and less connection to the environment or community,” reveals Siddhi. “Following a slow living mindset can help create balance, encouraging you to connect with the real world and those around you.”
It’s not all talk, either – studies have shown that this way of living can reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress, improve concentration and sleep, and even help people to manage pain better. And as for dining slowly, data in the British Medical Journal reveals that reducing eating speed can have beneficial effects on body size and overall health. Want to slow down and live more? It’s not difficult to achieve, as you simply take any small act, such as eating lunch, and turn it into something that creates a connection with your surroundings. If you’re looking for inspiration, follow our seven-day guide to embrace a gentler pace of life.
Monday – travel slowly
You might not be able to eliminate your commute to work but you can ‘slow’ it down. Consider turning it into a healthy activity – bike to work or get off the train a stop early and walk. Make peace with your commute by unplugging from technology, tuning into your surroundings and maybe even using the time for quiet meditation.
Tuesday – cook slowly
Cooking can provide a great opportunity to reconnect at the end of the day. Enjoy the process of cooking – notice the textures, smells and colours – and really take pride in presenting the food well on the plate. When it’s time to eat, sit down at a table, switch off your devices and eat slowly.
Wednesday – exercise slowly
While exercise might seem fast and furious, working up a sweat can really slow down the pace of your thoughts. In fact, studies show that regular activity can ease anxious feelings. If you’re going for an evening run or walk, take the scenic route. Heading to the gym? Take some time to create a playlist that will help you to unwind.
Thursday – shop slowly
One of the tenets of the slow food movement is to have less junk and more fresh food, so take the time today to source some seasonal produce. This might mean doing your food shopping at the farmer’s market, or simply heading to a wholefood store to buy a locally-sourced lunch.
Friday – work slowly
From paying the bills to meeting Friday’s deadlines, we all have stressful moments in our week that can bring chaos. Before beginning the task, take time out to tune into your breath and spend a few moments unwinding. Try the belly breathing technique – place a hand on your stomach then take a deep breath in through your nose; as you inhale, let your belly push against your hand.
Saturday – tidy slowly
Slow living is all about taking the time to enjoy the simple things, and daily rituals are a part of this. Whether it’s how you prepare the bed, put the washing on, or the way in which you brew your herbal tea in the morning, take the time to turn your everyday routines into a mindful act that brings some stillness to your day.
Sunday – relax slowly
Sunday is traditionally the day of rest so, today, stop for a bit and simply ‘be’. So many of us are constantly on the move, but it’s important to learn how to be a little bit bored. Take a few moments to sit or lie still, enjoy your environment, listen to the sounds around you and don’t do anything at all. Bliss!
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