What is SLOW LIVING? And what is it not?

Slow living - Embers on the hearth

Slow living is a lifestyle that focuses on slowing down. Not in the sense of speed, but in the sense of taking your time to do things instead of rushing around.

The slow living movement has been growing for a while, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant that many people were suddenly forced to reassess their lives and figure out new ways of doing things, what really matters to them, and many ended up discovering alternative ways of living.

If you are one of those people: welcome!

A movement, a mindset

It’s easy to look for rules or guidelines when you’re first starting something, especially when you are making a lifestyle change. Slow living doesn’t have any ‘top 10 tips’ or ‘tricks to get started’ you can rely on, and this can be an issue for those who are new to the lifestyle.

Slow living is a mindset. A way to approach life, your life. What works for me, might not work for you. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, you have to figure it out on your own. And that is what makes slow living such a powerful thing. You have to take full ownership of your choices, you can’t blame others and you can’t take shortcuts.

There are groups and communities that support and encourage slow living (or specific aspects of it), but there is no central body that creates rules of what slow living is or is not. No one can tell you you are doing slow living ‘wrong’.

As you delve deeper into slow living, you will begin to discover what works for you and what doesn’t. The goal is to improve life, not stress you out because you are not doing it right. A complete shift in mindset is needed when you decide to start living slowly. You need to figure out what in your life is important, and get rid of those things that are fillers. You need to figure out how to turn those activities you don’t particularly enjoy but need to do, into something that can be appreciated. You need to figure out how to do one thing at a time, and do it well according to your standards and needs, not someone else’s. And you need to figure out who you are once all the background noise and distractions disappear.

Why do we praise being busy and admire hustle culture?

Somewhere down the line in the history of humanity, we started to praise busyness. The busier you are, the more successful you are, and the better person you become. If you take your time to do things or don’t have a schedule filled with appointments and deadlines, you are somehow lazy. But at the same time, we all crave free time and dream of relaxed holidays in the sun drinking from a coconut and reading a book.

We grow up with the belief that we need to earn enjoyment, we need to earn our time, we need to earn a living. Slow living goes against this. Everyday can feel like that lazy day at the beach, even if you are working in an office. And that’s because things that makes us feel whole about that beautiful beach scene is not the laziness of not doing anything, but the time we take into appreciating what we are doing and taking the time to do it properly (that said, the coconut drink doesn’t hurt one bit!).

If you are working, work. If you are cooking, cook. If you are eating, eat. If you are commuting, commute. If you are working, while eating, and watching television, you are hustling and not doing anything properly. Your work will be subpar, your digestion will be rubbish, and you’ll miss half of your show.

When you slow down, you realise that a lot of things you thought you need to hustle for, are just not needed.

What slow living is not

Slow living is not doing things slowly

The goal of slow living is not to make our lives go at a slower pace, but to give each activity we take part in the appropriate time it needs to be done correctly. Slow living is about learning to enjoy the process instead of only focusing on the result.

With slow living you avoid hacks and shortcuts and multitasking. Slow living doesn’t mean you are not fast. If you are skilled at something or if you are under a deadline, you can still work fast and follow a slow living approach. The difference will be that instead of rushing and focusing on the goal, you focus on the process and on doing the best you possibly can.

Slow living means you do less

Doing things with care doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be doing less things. In fact, since I started following a slow living approach, I’ve increased my productivity and the quality of my work.

Because I don’t get distracted by trying to multitask and just getting things done, I save time. I used to always be stressed and have no free time. Now I have time for my hobbies, my family, and to sit down with a cup of tea and just do nothing for a while.

With slow living you don’t need to change your favourite activities for ‘chilled’ activities like meditation, yoga, or tai-chi (unless you want to, of course!). Slow living translates into less of the things you don’t need, not less of the things you enjoy.

Slow living has an aesthetic you need to adopt

A quick social media search for slow living will end up with sepia and brown-tinted photos of fresh produce, steaming cups of tea and coffee, old books, chocolate chip cookies, long cotton skirts, thick woolly jumpers, and a lot of gingham. These things make for beautiful Insta-ready and Pinterest-friendly images, but that doesn’t mean you need to make your life look like this!

My main dressing colors are grey, black, and purple; I only wear mini skirts; and I do most of my reading online. And while I do love a nice thick wooly jumper (of the 80’s persuasion) and homemade chocolate chip cookies (who doesn’t?), my living room has leather sofas and a massive black television on top of a glass table; no gingham or cotton to be seen anywhere.

Slow living is a way of life, not an aesthetic. You don’t need to buy anything or change who you are, to start living the slow way, you only need to change your mindset.

Slow living means living in a cottage and working from home

Living in a cottage, doesn’t mean you will slow down. You can be as stressed or as relaxed in the city as in the countryside. Working from home, doesn’t mean endless days of freedom to fill in with hobbies and non-work occupations.

You can have a slow living lifestyle regardless of your actual lifestyle. My husband and I have 2 young children that are home educated, we work, we live in the city centre, we rely on public transport (no car), we rent a second-floor flat, and we are on a pretty low income, my daughter and I live with chronic health conditions… and we can still make it work. In fact, if someone told me: you can have my country cottage free of charge, I would probably say no because that’s not the lifestyle I want or a place where I could thrive.

Slow living is not for rich child-free healthy able-bodied cottage-owners. Slow living can be adopted by anyone, anywhere.

Slow living means going back to ye olde times and banning technology

Slow living is all about giving the things you do, the attention they need. Are you playing on your phone while talking to your friend? Are you texting someone, while listening to a podcast, while walking down the street? Do you have no free time but somehow manage to spend 3 hours a day on social media? Then, yes, you may want to check yourself when it comes to technology.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Technology is a tool. Thanks to the internet we have access to amazing resources and we have the chance to connect to people around the globe. Without technology, I wouldn’t have discovered slow living. Without technology, I wouldn’t be able to home educate my children. Without technology, I wouldn’t have access to resources for my hobbies. Without technology, my children wouldn’t know their grandparents who live in different countries. Without technology, I wouldn’t even have my current job.

Slow living means that you develop a healthy way to interact with technology, instead of allowing it to take over your life. Technology becomes a tool, not an end.

Slow living is the same as minimalism, simple living, sustainability, zero-waste, veganism…

If you start diving into slow living, you will probably come across a lot of other keywords that might seem to either be the same as slow living or at least related to it. Words like minimalism, eco-friendly, low-waste, and declutter all pop-up when talking about slow living. These things are not slow living.

Why then, do they seem to always be talked about in slow living circles?

Slow living usually means completely changing your outlook on life. The things you took for granted and considered normal stop being as important and your priorities shift. When you make such a big change in your life, usually a lot of other changes start to happen. This means that it’s not uncommon for someone who started down the minimalism path to later become vegan and later on start a slow living lifestyle. So in the end, you see all of these concepts intermingled. This is in a way great, because it opens us up to more knowledge and more positive change in the world. On the negative side, it also makes the entry point higher and could deter people from even trying.

Just know that you can do one thing at a time. You are not a bad person if you are vegan but buy processed foods. You are not a bad person if you try to live slowly but still run to catch the bus. You are not a bad person if you want to be a minimalists but enjoy your large collection of make-up. You are just a normal person who is trying, and that’s all we can do.

Slow living areas

Slow living is slowly being applied to all areas of life. Over time people have worked out a meaning for the letters slow:

  • Sustainable
  • Local
  • Organic
  • Whole

While these are readily applicable to slow living in the context of food (which is where slow living started), with a bit of out-of-the-box thinking they can be used in all areas of slow living. And luckily, people are very creative creatures and slow food has expanded from slow living to include a slow version of almost every human activity:

  • slow ageing
  • slow architecture
  • slow art
  • slow blogging
  • slow business
  • slow cinema
  • slow cities
  • slow consumption
  • slow design
  • slow eating
  • slow education
  • slow fashion
  • slow fitness
  • slow food
  • slow gaming
  • slow gardening
  • slow hobbies
  • slow homes
  • slow learning
  • slow living
  • slow marketing
  • slow media
  • slow medicine
  • slow money
  • slow movement
  • slow parenting
  • slow photography
  • slow production
  • slow reading
  • slow relationships
  • slow religion
  • slow science
  • slow technology
  • slow television
  • slow travel
  • slow work
  • and many more I probably haven’t come across or haven’t even been given a name yet.