What is Slow Living? 9 Life-Changing Tips To Slow Down
Slow living has become a big trend. But its basic message is about consuming less and taking a slower approach to everyday life.
Slow living is so mainstream that Breathe magazine is stacked at grocery store checkouts. Tidying Up with Marie Kondo is so popular that it’s sparked an upswing in thrift store donations.
Fast food outlets now offer vegan menus and countless apps help us meditate and reduce our online time.
And who doesn’t have a reusable water bottle?
It seems everyone is striving for a simpler, sustainable and meaningful life.
The push is towards simplicity, whether that’s decluttering or slimming down your vacation itinerary.
On Instagram, hashtags like #theartofslowliving depict steaming cups of tea on linen sheets. They show life’s simple pleasures meant to be savoured. And they might even inspire you to set aside your smartphone.
But slow living is more than an aesthetic Pinterest board (that’s often just as aspirational as the consumerism it claims to counter).
So what exactly is slow living?
Slow living is all about consuming less and taking a slower approach to everyday life.
And slow living can include anything from eating mindfully to planning your vacation.
It’s a set of values that says faster isn’t always better.
Slow living isn’t a privilege for people who don’t have jobs, families or responsibilities. It isn’t only for those who can afford cottages in the country.
Slow living was born out of the slow food movement that emphasizes local and traditional cuisine over fast food.
When a McDonald’s wanted to open at the Spanish Steps in Rome in 1986, a group of Italian activists demonstrated. They threw a big pasta feast to protest the commercialization of the historic site. They also wrote a manifesto that went on to inspire the slow living moment.
But while it’s ever-growing in popularity, slow living is often misunderstood.
Here are six key elements of slow living.
The meaning of slow living:
1. A slow approach to everyday life
If you’ve ever worked in the corporate world – or just tried to get friends together for coffee – you’ve heard the common refrain: “I’m so busy.”
The statement is sometimes spoken with a hint of pride because in our culture “being busy” means “being important.”
Society reduces your value to what you can produce – and what you can consume. In a world of status symbols, branded t-shirts and endless WhatsApp work groups, slowing down is a “guilty pleasure.”
And then there’s the grind culture that glamorizes busyness. It claims that working overtime and sleeping in the office means you’re passionate, dedicated and driven.
Slow living at work
Slow living is a rejection of that fast-paced life that glamorizes a mindless flurry.
A full calendar doesn’t mean you’re living a full life. A mad rush through your itinerary doesn’t mean productivity.
On the contrary. The constant meetings, buzzing notifications and coworker chatter that fill so many workdays are the worst possible environments for the focus you needed to produce meaningful results.
If you ever arrived to the office early and produced days worth of work in hours, you’ll know the power of undistracted concentration.
Slow living at work means focusing on the tasks that bring results – and eliminating the busywork.
Slow living hobbies
A slow life means being intentional with your leisure time. It’s not about packing your calendar and attending social functions out of a sense of obligation.
It’s about learning how to politely say no – and being ruthlessly protective of your free time. And it’s about spending your free time doing what you’re passionate about.
Obligations often come in floods: birthday parties for colleagues you don’t really like, tennis lessons because your best friend is taking them too.
Taking a slow approach to leisure time means defining what really brings you joy.
This takes self-knowledge gained from exploring different interests and finding what makes you truely happy.
And most importantly, it means making sacrifices. Because those joyful activities can’t be packed into a full calendar. If you want more time, some things just have to go.
But where does your time really go? We often claim we “don’t have time,” but we spend hours on smartphones and TV.
And you’ll find that meaningful hobbies will bring you better rest than passing out on the couch – even after a tiring day.
It seems counterintuitive, but your mind is refreshed after tackling a “difficult” task in the evening. A night of shallow entertainment means immediate pleasure but it only leaves you drained if it’s not balanced with richer activities.
Here are some ways to enrich your free time:
The slow reading movement
Going against the push to devour information, the slow reading movement emphasizes a slower pace. The goal is to get more nuance, pleasure and meaning from complex books.
The slow travel movement
With over-tourism and viral Instagram destinations, the slow travel movement is all about slimming down your itinerary. It’s about immersing yourself in a location and its culture.
2. Mindfulness, and being aware of your surroundings
Mindfulness might seem New Age, but it’s actually a proven tool recommended by psychologists to combat depression and anxiety.
Being present in your everyday life means cultivating habits like journaling or meditation that plant you into the present moment.
These habits help you escape that endless internal dialogue of worrying about the future or ruminating about the past.
How does mindfulness relate to slow living?
A hurried life is the opposite of slow. It means rushing through the day without any intention or pleasure.
Our daily lives then become obstacles to endure before the weekend arrives.
When you’re more connected to the present, you appreciate life’s small pleasures and gain perspective on your problems.
There are countless health benefits of mindfulness, too. It helps you manage stress, lowers your blood pressure, reduces chronic pain and improves your sleep.
If you rush through your day and hardly remember what you ate for lunch, then mindfulness helps you savour the moments.
Our world of constant information overload and uncertainty about the future make mindfulness especially important now.
3. A connection to community
Slow living means knowing how your lifestyle impacts the environment and the global community. This can mean supporting local farmers or connecting with locals for a more authentic travel experience.
Slow living is an antidote to constantly living online and being disconnected from people, with communication broken down into “likes” and comments.
Slow living means nurturing your local community and spending time on the relationships that bring value to your life.
It’s about rediscovering the art of conversation and analog hobbies like board games and phone-free dinners.
It’s about being a good listener. And about cultivating friendships based around shared values and interests.
When you mistake social media for real communication, you’re left lonely and drained. When you travel only to photograph major tourist attractions, you’re doing a disservice to local communities.
Consumption with no regard to the consequences means the exploitation of people, animals and the planet.
Slow living is about valuing real relationships and knowing that we’re all interconnected.
4. A commitment to purpose
Slow living means focusing on impactful work and intentional living.
It means crossing the “shoulds” off your calendar to focus on work that drives you forward. And it’s eliminating pointless tasks to make time for what’s important.
But it’s also about purpose.
Whatever choices we make are intentional. There’s no following the crowd or going along with whatever’s popular. Slow living is about knowing your principles and letting them guide your decisions.
It means using technology for a specific purpose – and not just downloading the latest apps because you don’t want to miss out.
It means cutting out tasks that don’t move you towards a bigger purpose. And it means enriching hobbies and free time well spent.
5. Knowing that faster isn’t always better
There are countless tools and gadgets from toasters to smartphone filters that promise quicker and easier results than whatever came before.
Marketing slogans like “new” and “improved” have been used for generations to hook more customers.
But faster isn’t always better. And whether we like it or not, the best things in life can’t be rushed.
We’re wired as humans to take pleasure in work down with our hands, using skills that take years to develop into artforms.
We may be dazzled by a Tweet or a time lapse video of a watercolor swirl. But that content isn’t as satisfying as an engrossing novel or a masterful landscape.
Slow living isn’t about getting rid of technology or tools.
But it takes time to hit deep insights or make life-changing shifts.
Whether it’s Steve Jobs taking a “think week” off from work to only absorb information and learn, or George R. R. Martin disappearing into a wooden cabin with bad WiFi to work on his next novel, there are no shortcuts to producing brilliant work.
Though it’s not always about becoming a CEO or writing best-selling novels. It’s about the satisfaction that comes with honing your craft.
6. Consuming less
Slow living is about anti-consumerism and rejecting the view that material wealth brings happiness.
It’s opting out of a rat race without a finish line.
A slow and intentional life doesn’t mean minimalism or monk-like austerity. It doesn’t mean a home filled with beige basics and a capsule wardrobe.
But the pursuit of status symbols and material possessions is endless by design. And it won’t ever bring you happiness.
Slow living means being grateful for what you have. It means meaningful work, deep relationships and joyful leisure.
It’s knowing that retail therapy only works for a moment. And that people who are impressed with status symbols aren’t worth impressing.
Consuming less means you can invest in more timeless and longer-lasting pieces because you’re conscious about every purchase.
It also means less crippling debt and more savings laid away. This gives you more freedom in the work you undertake. There’s no working overtime to pay off debts to pay for things you don’t really want.
Instead, your money can go into what really matters. You can spend on experiences instead of gadgets and impulse purchases.
The art of slow living
The art of slow living is all about editing.
And that means making difficult cuts and saying “no” with grace.
I’ve attempted to grow jasmine, rose and various bougonvilla on my balcony for years. I also had a few plants that actually did well. And one day I asked myself: why waste space and effort on plants that just aren’t working?
So I took the few thriving plants and propagated them. Then I filled my empty pots with their offspring. My balcony is now green and vibrant. And I don’t have any plants that just don’t thrive in my climate.
And that’s what the art of slow living is all about. It’s being self-aware (I forget to water sometimes) and critically examining what works in your life.
Then it means doing more of what works.
Slow living means anything from streamlining your work to cutting down on social media to create time for what really inspires you.
Piling more slow living activities (like yoga or reading) into your packed calendar will only leave you frustrated.
Slow living means building your life around your priorities. This means ruthlessly editing and scheduling your time to make space for what matters.
Slow living tips
How does all of this translate to real life?
Here are my top 3 tips for a more mindful lifestyle:
1. Be aware how you spend your time
Track your activities in a calendar for a few days and record what comes up.
Very often you don’t realize how much time you spend watching TV or scrolling Instagram.
When you’re faced with the statistics, you might be surprised. Because the point of this kind of entertainment is precisely to make you lose track of time.
2. Schedule in slow living
You should look forward to doing what you love (like watching movies with your partner or dabbling with watercolors). And scheduling them in might seem strange.
But you don’t often spend time doing what you love because you haven’t made time for it.
So schedule in a night for trying out new recipes and make it a weekly routine – whether you’re tired or not.
It might be hard to get going at first, but doing what you love will leave you invigorated and energized.
3. Keep your expectations low
You make plans to meditate or journal, but then real life happens and a few days go by. Then you get discouraged and give up. You tell yourself that you’re just too buzy. Too disorganized. Too undisciplined.
And you begin to believe those stories.
But high expectations are often part of the problem.
It seems ridiculous to commit to 5 minutes of yoga a day. But it works infinitely better than aiming for an hour of cross training a day and failing miserably.
Set yourself a low minimum for all your habits.
If you want to start yoga, do 5 minutes of stretches and go from there. If you want to keep a daily journal, then write a line a day – and build on that.
When you’re exhausted or busy, take your habit down to that minimum. Do 5 minutes of yoga, even if you’d normally do a full hour.
This keeps your habits alive.
Slow living quotes
Do you want to stay inspired?
Read the movement’s different voices for fresh insights into how slow living impacts all aspects of life.
Here are four inspiring slow living quotes:
“It’s about knowing and passionately loving the things we value. And designing our lives to spend the most time possible enjoying them. It’s about having intention and consciousness in our activities. About escaping the mindless scrolling and unproductive multi-tasking and focusing on purposeful action.” — Kayte Ferris
“A fast approach tends to be a superficial one. But when you slow down you begin to engage more deeply with whatever it is you’re doing. Speed becomes a form of denial. It’s a way of running away from those more deeper, tangled problems.” — Carl Honoré
“Busyness is, at its core, about misplaced priorities.” — Joshua Becker
“I frequently worry that being productive is the surest way to lull ourselves into a trance of passivity. And busyness the greatest distraction from living.” — Maria Popova
Slow living magazines
What’s more “slow living” than browsing a magazine in bed with a coffee?
Here are 3 incredible magazines on slow living that will inspire you to simplify your life:
Erin Loechner is the author of the Christian memoir Chasing Slow, and her blog is a beautiful reflection on slow living and parenting.
Design for Mankind is an eloquent voice on living simply. Loechner reflects on buziness, raising children and life expectations. She’s also a beautiful storyteller with evocative anecdotes.
Some inspiring stories:
State of the Blog (Sort Of), or Loechner on her sporadic use of social media and the connections she values instead. It’s also a look at how we communicate online, why we consume content and what purpose it should serve.
How to Slow Your Life is an atypical guide to slow living. There are honest reflections on the imperfect nature of life – and about making things easier on ourselves.
Emma is a New Zealander who went from overworked mom to a simpler life with less clutter.
Her blog posts often touch on parenting and the role of the “superwoman,” the glorification of busy and clutter as a time thief.
Some inspiring stories:
Life Admin. How To Tackle It Without Going Crazy! is full of useful tips for those who procrastinate with the mundane everyday items on their to-do lists. From eating the frog first to letting go of perfectionism, this is an insightful look at what’s holding you back.
When you want a career AND a slower pace of life is Emma’s no-nonsense guide to slowing down without thwarting your ambitions. From having strong boundaries to outsourcing household chores, this post is full of tips for everyone with a hectic day job.
Cal Newport is the author of bestsellers like Digital Minimalism and Deep Work. He’s an incredible source on how to increase your concentration and do meaningful work in an increasingly distracted world.
Newport’s podcast Deep Questions offers insightful interviews with experts on creativity, deep vs. shallow work, discipline and habits. Newport answers listener questions about the challenges of cutting down on social media and increasing your focus.
Essentialism is a podcast from best-selling author McKeown.
After leaving his wife’s bedside after the birth of his child to attend a work meeting, McKeown had an awakening and began to re-think his priorities.
Essentialism is for everyone who’s busy and stretched thin but not exactly productive. McKeown and his guests explore how to “do less, but better.” Episodes tackle issues like unplugging and the fear of missing out.
The podcast offers fascinating conversations for anyone looking to slim down their schedule and make a bigger impact.
My account focuses on slow living in everyday, practical life – including the ups and downs of striving for a simpler life. Living with my husband and our cats in the Cairo suburbs, I write about slow everyday moments, creativity and self-doubt.
I also shares videos of my travels off the beaten path and simple moments amid nature. From a day browsing art galleries a morning spent writing, my Reels capture moments of joy and inspiration.
Jessica Rose Williams is a slow living writer in England’s Peak District writing about simple and intuitive living. She’s also a former shopaholic who reevaluated her lifestyle after a cancer scare.
Jessica’s content is about creating a slow and simple home. There’s also lots of advice on slow fashion and building a capsule wardrobe that will take you across the four seasons with some versatile staples.
I love her ability to learn from her mistakes. And Jessica shares great tips on her Instagram Stories from her everyday life that really work, along with mistakes and lessons learned.