Seeking Slow is a well-rounded guide to slow living – whether you’re getting started or need some inspiration. Here is my book review.
All photos courtesy of Melanie Barnes.
Many of us want slower and simpler lives as an anecdote to the multi-tasking and busyness of today. But to actually infuse those values into our everyday lives is a different story.
In her new book Seeking Slow: Reclaim Moments of Calm in your Day, Melanie Barnes argues that it’s not about doing everything slower or having loads of free time. It’s about setting priorities so the less important things don’t end up taking over. And it’s about making space for what matters most.
Seeking Slow offers a holistic approach to slow living that looks at everything from how we travel and spend our days, to what we buy or do for leisure. Because this all adds up to either an intentional life or a life filled with anxiety and overwhelm, Barnes says.
Geoffrey and Grace
Barnes is the writer and photographer behind the blog Geoffrey and Grace and the popular Instagram account @geoffreyandgrace. Her beautiful photos have long inspired readers to appreciate slow moments and daily pleasures.
Though Barnes also has 15 years of experience in well-being. She’s a trained yogi, meditation teacher and massage therapist. And this background makes her book a more practical and realistic look at slow living that’s rooted in experience.
Barnes began to explore slow living after the birth of her daughter. She realised as her daughter was growing up that time – and her daughter’s childhood – passes so quickly. And she didn’t want to miss out.
What is slow living?
Slow living means being present in the moment, appreciating the little things and taking time to enjoy life, Barnes says. In our modern age, we come up against the glorification of busy, materialism, consumerism and constant online connectivity. So we must re-evaluate our values if we want a slower life.
“By altering our definition of success, we will naturally slow down the pace of our days,” Barnes writes. “By being realistic about what it means to be busy and by learning to relish the small, simple pleasures along the way, we can all find more meaning and joy in our lives.”
Understanding the darker forces brings awareness which can also help change our mindsets, Barnes says. Tracing the consumer culture back to the 1920s advent of PR, for example, makes us realise that consumerism is a recent innovation. It’s not a universal law we’ve always lived by – and we don’t have to, either.
“Having an awareness of the industry and how we are marketed to gives us the understanding to make more conscious choices,” Barnes writes.
Seeking Slow book review
I don’t think slow living is possible if we’re checking our notifications every hour.
And Barnes devotes an entire section to digital detox and simple strategies to ensure that Internet time doesn’t take over our lives – and that we have space for wholehearted moments.
“We must not underestimate how being intentional with our time is instrumental in slowing down,” Barnes writes.
Seeking Slow offers tips on working smarter to be more efficient and reduce stress. From focusing on what’s important and resisting the trap of multitasking, to defining your priorities and batching similar tasks together.
A section on self-care looks at the guilt we often feel about taking time for ourselves, especially amid long to-do lists. Barnes suggests we redefine what’s essential and look at ways of slowing down from gardening to enjoying an unhurried cup of tea.
Barnes also looks at the importance of self-compassion in slow living. She says self-compassion isn’t often a trait that’s valued in Western societies and it’s seen as weak. We often feel we have to be hard on ourselves to stay motivated and that we have to be tough to succeed. Self-compassion can be regarded as indulgence or laziness.
Barnes makes a convincing case for how the opposite is true. Self-compassion actually makes us happier and more motivated. She suggests asking yourself: “What do I need?” and then treating yourself like you’d treat a dear friend.
Factors in slow living
Seeking Slow also looks at the importance of boredom as a way of making space for inspirational ideas that can only come with free thought uninterrupted by notifications.
There’s also a chapter on the body – an essential part in slow living that doesn’t often get much attention. Barnes stresses the importance of listening to our bodies and how they can tell us what we need. The benefits include better health, increased intuition and a better understanding of stress. This self-awareness leads to greater happiness and confidence.
A section on home looks at how our surroundings impact our well-being, and lists ways to make our homes more comfortable by getting rid of clutter and organizing.
Barnes lists activities for each season with lots of ideas for kids like making beach mosaics from seashells in the summer or garlands of popcorn or orange slices for Christmas. Many of these activities will get you out into nature to experience its calming effects.
Seeking Slow also includes tips on meditation to make us more thoughtful, focused and calm. Meditation can help us deal with daily stress and be more present.
“Meditation allows us the space to return to a neutral mind, helping us to not become fixated on or attached to negative thoughts and emotions,” Barnes writes. “Learning to be present in the moment helps when challenging situations arise; we find that we don’t have an emotional knee-jerk reaction but are able to take a moment to mindfully react, so generally we are able to remain calm and act with more compassion.”
With its well-rounded approach to slow living, Seeking Slow is an inspiring read with beautiful photos. But it’s also a practical guide to slowing down and not letting the years pass you by.