16 Life-Changing Slow Living Tips (You Can Start Today)
Slow living has become a big trend. But its basic message is about consuming less and taking a slower approach to everyday life.
Breathe magazines are now stacked at grocery store checkouts. Tidying Up with Marie Kondo went so viral that it sparked an upswing in thrift store donations.
Slow living is a huge trend.
Fast food outlets offer vegan menus and countless apps help us meditate and reduce our screen time.
And who doesn’t have a reusable water bottle?
It seems we’re all striving for a simpler, sustainable and meaningful life.
The push is towards simplicity, whether that’s decluttering your closet or simplifying your vacation itinerary.
On social media, hashtags like #TheArtOfSlowLiving depict steaming cups of tea on linen sheets. They show life’s simple pleasures meant to be savored.
And they might even inspire you to set aside your smartphone.
But slow living is more than an aesthetic (which is 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 a less packed vacation itinerary.
It’s a set of values that says faster isn’t always better.
But slow living isn’t a privilege for people who don’t have jobs, families or responsibilities. It’s not only for those who can afford a cottage in the country.
Slow living was born out of the slow food movement that emphasizes local and traditional cuisine over fast food. It launched in Italy during protests over the opening of a McDonald’s on the iconic Spanish Steps in Rome.
But while it’s ever-growing in popularity, slow living is often misunderstood.
What’s the essence of a slower 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 just so busy.”
The statement is sometimes spoken with a hint of pride. Because in our culture “being busy” is often equated with “being important.”
Society reduces your value to what you can produce – and what you can consume.
And then there’s the grind culture that glamorizes busyness. It claims that working overtime and sleeping in the office means you’re dedicated and driven.
In a world of status symbols, branded t-shirts and endless WhatsApp work chats, slowing down is a guilty pleasure.
Slow living tips
So how can slow living translate to your real everyday life?
Slow living is all about shifting your mindset and making small but consistent changes.
It’s about getting past the Instagram aesthetics and countryside cottage dreams to make slow living work for you – on your own terms.
Here are my top tips for living a slower and more mindful life:
1. Focus on impact – not busywork
The constant meetings, buzzing notifications and emails that fill so many workplaces are the worst possible environments for focused work.
If you ever arrived early at the office and produced days worth of work in just a few hours, you know the power of concentration.
Work is the source of so much modern-day stress. And it’s easy to feel like you’re constantly busy without much to show for it.
And even though you can’t turn off your emails, there are simple changes you can make to boost your productivity and eliminate busywork.
Here’s how to slow down at work:
Set a few specific times of the day to reply to your emails. And devote the rest of your day to more focused work without constantly checking your inbox.
Resolve ongoing issues with colleagues with real-life conversations instead of endless back-and-forth emails.
Have an honest chat with your boss and let them know how you can improve your output with a day working from home or from a distraction-free location.
The conversation around focused work vs. business has hit the mainstream with some life-changing bestsellers that tackle these issues.
Tune into these podcasts during your morning commute for more tips on deep work:
Deep Questions by bestselling author Cal Newport offers invaluable tips to increase your concentration and do meaningful work in an increasingly distracted world. Newport’s podcast includes insightful interviews with experts on creativity, deep vs. shallow work, discipline and habits.
Essentialism by Greg McKeown is another great podcast for anyone who’s busy and stretched thin but not exactly productive. McKeown explores how to do less, but better. Episodes tackle issues like unplugging and the fear of missing out.
2. Dive into a mindful hobby
A slow life means being intentional with your leisure time.
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 truly happy.
And most importantly, it means making sacrifices. Because those joyful activities can’t be packed into a full calendar.
Turn your phone and your TV off for an evening and dive into a slow living hobby that will bring you some real rest and relaxation.
That can mean sketching in an art journal, planting a small herb garden or reading up on Civil War history.
Push through your initial exhaustion in the evening and dedicate a half hour to something you really love. You’ll be amazed at how much better-rested you’ll feel afterwards.
It seems counter-intuitive, but your mind is more refreshed after tackling a challenging task in the evening.
A night of easy entertainment means immediate pleasure. But it only leaves you drained if it’s not balanced with more enriching hobbies.
3. Turn off your phone
Where does all your time really go?
We often claim we don’t have time – but we spend hours scrolling our smartphones and watching TV.
A little digital detox goes a long way towards creating more time for the things (and people) that really matter.
And it might seem impossible if you’re addicted to your smartphone.
But set aside your smartphone in the evening even for an hour and you’ll be amazed at how little you miss it.
4. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness might seem very New Age, but it’s actually a proven tool recommended by psychologists to combat depression and anxiety.
Be present in your everyday life and cultivate habits like journaling and meditation that plant you into the present moment.
These habits help you escape that endless internal dialogue of worrying about the future and ruminating about the past.
Our daily lives often become obstacles to endure until the weekend finally 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 savor the moments.
5. Connect to your community
Slow living means knowing how your lifestyle impacts the environment and the global community.
It’s an antidote to constantly living online and being disconnected from people, with communication broken down into comments and likes.
Slow living means nurturing your local community and spending time on the relationships that bring value to your life.
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.
Here are some tips for deeper connections:
Rediscover the art of conversation and try some analog hobbies like board games and phone-free dinners in the evening with loved ones.
Be a good listener. Cultivate friendships by making the effort to ask questions, really get to know the person and put your phone away during meals.
Support your local farmers and artisans by shopping locally and fair trade whenever possible.
Connect with locals on your vacations for more authentic travel experiences.
6. Commit 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 you make should be intentional.
Don’t follow the crowd or go 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.
7. Know that faster isn’t always better
Countless tools and gadgets (from toasters to smartphone filters) promise better results than ever before.
Marketing slogans like “new” and “improved” have been used for generations to hook 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 that’s done with our hands – using skills that take years to develop into an art form.
We may be dazzled by a time lapse video of an easy watercolor sketch. But that sketch won’t be as satisfying as a masterful landscape done by practiced hands.
It takes time to hit deep insights, become skilled and make life-changing shifts.
Steve Jobs takes a “think week” off from work to absorb information and learn.
George R. R. Martin disappears into a wooden cabin with bad WiFi to work on his novels.
And it’s not always about becoming a CEO or writing best-selling novels. It’s about the satisfaction that comes with honing your skills.
There are no shortcuts to producing satisfying work.
8. Consume less
Slow living is about anti-consumerism and knowing that material wealth doesn’t bring 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 awhile. And that people who are impressed with status symbols aren’t worth impressing.
Consuming less means being able to 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.
And 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 towards what really matters.
9. Learn to say no
The art of slow living is all about editing.
And that means making difficult decisions and saying “no” with grace.
I’ve attempted to grow jasmine on my balcony for years. I also had a few plants that actually did well. And one day I asked myself: why waste space 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 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.
And it’s 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.
10. Know how you spend your time
Track your activities in a calendar for a few days and record what comes up.
You often don’t realize how much time you spend watching TV or scrolling social media.
And 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.
Once you’re aware of where your time goes, you can take the next steps to curbing your screen time and exploring new hobbies.
11. Schedule in slow living
Conventional wisdom says you should look forward to doing what you really love, like watching movies with your partner or dabbling with watercolors.
And scheduling pleasures into your calendar might seem strange.
But if you don’t spend much time doing what you love – it’s because you haven’t made time for it.
So if you love to cook, schedule a night to try out a new recipe. And make it a weekly routine – even when you’re tired.
It might be hard to get going, but indulging your passions will ultimately energize and relax you.
12. Keep your expectations realistic
You make plans to meditate or journal, but then real life happens and you get busy. Then you get discouraged and give up. You tell yourself you don’t have enough time or discipline.
And you begin to believe your own stories.
But high expectations are often part of the problem.
It seems useless to write 3 lines a day. But writing a few lines is still infinitely better than planning to journal for an hour every morning and failing.
Set yourself a realistic minimum when you’re forming new habits.
If you want to start yoga, do 5 minutes of stretches a day for a month. You’ll fall in love with yoga and you’ll look forward to your sessions. Then build on that.
When you get tired and fall out of your slow living habits, return again to your initial realistic minimum. Start doing that 5 minutes of yoga again, even if you’d normally do an hour session.
Staying realistic keeps your habits going – and that makes you far more likely to continue them.
13. Remember the benefits of a slower life
Slow living isn’t just about journaling and feel-good bubble baths. It’s a lifestyle that’s as vital to your good health as brushing your teeth.
It’s not easy to slow down, but your little doses of slowness are incredible tools to boost your mental and physical health.
A rushed and stressful life has serious consequences – from depression and anxiety to heart attacks.
So whenever slow living seems a bit self-indulgent, remind yourself why you’re really doing it.
Here are some benefits of slow living:
Saved money: whether it’s decluttering or being more mindful with your purchases, living a slower-paced life is a great financial decision.
More happiness: slowing down makes you appreciate your blessings and the little things in your everyday life.
Better health: when you slow down, you’re better managing the anxiety and stress that comes with a furious schedule. Embracing slow food and making time for movement brings even more benefits.
Improved relationships: spending more quality time with loved ones and putting your relationships above your work strengthens real communication.
Increased productivity: from letting go of multi-tasking to focusing on meaningful work, slowing down at work boosts your productivity.
More time: by cutting down on time-suckers like TV and social media, you’ll find yourself with hours on your hands.
14. Build small but consistent habits
Starting a slower lifestyle doesn’t have to mean a radical shift.
It’s often the small but consistent habits that bring the most impact.
Here are some easy slow living habits that you can start today:
Eat your meals mindfully: focus on the flavors and textures of your food – not on the TV or phone.
Use your commute to meditate, listen to audio books and podcasts.
Work in time blocks and single-task.
Spend more time outdoors.
Declutter your closet and start building a capsule wardrobe.
Cook in bulk and plan your meals.
15. Stay inspired
What’s more slow living than flipping through a magazine in bed with a coffee?
Set your smartphone aside and browse through some print magazines instead of scrolling social media.
Here are some incredible slow living magazines to inspire you:
Kinfolk is a mainstay on every hipster bookshelf and an Instagram aesthetic icon. It began as a magazine about intimate gatherings and slowing down. And now it’s a must-read on slow living and the tyranny of the ticking clock.
Darling is all about real, unphotoshopped women. It challenges cultural ideals of beauty, the oversexualization of women and the diet culture. There’s also advice on issues like depression and insights into slowing down your everyday life.
Breathe is about mindfulness, downtime and recharging for a calmer and more relaxed you. It includes stunning illustrations and covers topics from well-being to creativity. What 500 Sun Salutations taught me is a must-read about the power of striving for patience over perfection.
16. Find a like-minded community
If your friends and family just don’t get slow living, it’s crucial to find some new inspiration when you’re starting out.
There’s an array of writers who offer deeper knowledge to keep you motivated along the slower path.
Design for Mankind is an eloquent voice on living simply. Author Erin Loechner reflects on busyness, raising children and life expectations. She’s also a beautiful storyteller with evocative anecdotes.
State of the Blog (Sort Of) is about Loechner’s 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 yourself.
Emma went from overworked mom to simple living with less clutter. She writes about parenting and the role of the “superwoman,” the glorification of busy and clutter as a time thief.
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, it’s 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.
Slow living quotes
Get inspired with the slow living movement’s different voices and fresh insights.
Here are my favorite slow living quotes:
“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 books
Here are some of my favorite books on slow living for a deeper dive into a more intentional lifestyle:
Destination: Simple by Brooke McAlary is a concise and practical introduction to slow living that offers 7 ways to reduce busyness and overwhelm. The book focuses on tactics like single-tasking, gratitude and unplugging from technology.
McAlary is also honest: making changes in your life takes effort, time and energy. But the payoffs are enormous.