Slow living isn’t synonymous with city life. Here are some tips for living a balanced and unhurried life – even in the big city.
Slow living in the city?
Think slow living and you’re more likely to picture a country cottage, a cup of tea or a flickering candle over an open book.
That is, after all, the aesthetic that Instagram hashtags and Pinterest boards show us. Slow living bloggers move to the countryside to get away from the corporate world. And books on slow living often focus on nature and the rural life.
But for many of us, that’s not the reality. The vast majority of us live in big cities and young people are increasingly leaving the countryside behind.
And for many of us, slow living is a weekend thing – or an aspiration that often feels impossible.
But how can slow living work for us now, wherever we are? Even if that’s an apartment tower alongside a noisy street with loud neighbours?
Here are some tips for slow living in the city:
1. Make your home a peaceful sanctuary.
When you’re living in a fast-paced big city, you don’t want to come home to more overwhelm, stress and clutter.
A clean, clutter-free yet cozy space will give you a sanctuary and a place to rest and recharge – not a space that will just add to your anxiety. Here’s how to get started:
Declutter your space in short but regular sessions to keep it neat even when you’re busy.
Choose a few beloved items to display. A clutter-free space should still be beautiful, not empty and stark.
Keep it clean. Dust or piles of laundry are depressing to look at.
2. Create a green oasis in your home.
Just looking at the color green reduces stress and calms us.
Fill your garden with a few green shrubs that are easy to maintain if you’re busy. Deck your balcony with flower pots and a couple of comfortable lounge chairs to create an oasis of calm.
And if you don’t have a garden or a balcony, then bring a few luscious potted plants into your living room and line the windowsills with greenery. If you have pets that eat up any plants then get some plastic plants. They’re quite realistic these days.
3. Create moments of slow and turn them into daily habits.
If you try to transform your entire life, then you’ll likely fall short and get disappointed.
You’ll be more likely to get results and stay motivated to keep going if you make small but consistent changes. Slow living in the city isn’t easy, but it’s possible with small and practical changes.
Injecting moments of slow and calm into your day can be as simple as a morning coffee on the balcony. Or 15 minutes with a meditation app in the evening.
Take a lunch break in the sun and get away from your desk. It will feel indulgent and unproductive, but you’ll be better rested and that will boost your productivity.
4. Turn off in the evenings.
Big cities never sleep and it’s tempting to stay “on” at night answering emails, preparing for the next day or going out when you’d rather be resting.
When you’re done with work, put it away and don’t be tempted to fill up every waking moment with productivity. Take the guilt out of bad TV, or pick up a light book and read for an hour before bed.
You might feel so tired that you can’t imagine anything besides scrolling Instagram on the couch in the evening. But you’ll be surprised how invigorating a good book or some journaling can be if you push through that initial fatigue.
Hours of mindlessly scrolling social media can lead to depression and anxiety. Here are some tactics that have helped me to cut down screen time.
5. Spend your commute wisely.
We spend so much time in big cities waiting in traffic.
When you’re in a taxi or stuck in a traffic jam, use the time for meditation with an app, an audio book or an inspiring podcast. When you’re going from one meeting to the next, make the ride over a time to recharge and slow down.
6. Find some quiet spots in the city.
Whether it’s a neighbourhood cafe or a small corner park, find some quiet places that don’t get too busy for lunch breaks or weekend outings.
If you live in a city near water, then put that on your itinerary too. Studies show that water makes us happier and calmer. So spend a day at the beach, or take a boat ride on the lake to get away from the city without going very far.
7. Practice mindfulness.
The city streets we walk everyday fade into routine and we hardly notice them anymore.
Stay mindful of your environment and be alive in the present moment by finding novelty in your surroundings. Sign up for a weekend walking tour in an unfamiliar neighborhoood or notice the light at your desk in the afternoon. Take a quick photo or write down your thoughts in a note app when you’re on the go.
8. Ignore small annoyances.
Whether it’s an Uber driver who can’t read GPS, or colleagues chatting loudly at your desk, consider if getting angry will benefit the situation.
Get some noise-cancelling headphones if our office is too frantic. Breathe deeply and let things go. Have a sense of humor in stressful situations.
If needed, take 5 minutes with a meditation app or get outside to walk the stress off.
9. Say “no” more often.
Use your spare time wisely because in the city you probably don’t have much of it.
With constant events always on, don’t let your weekends fill up with things you feel obligated to attend. Resist social pressure and ask yourself what you’d really look forward to doing.
Plan carefully and choose activities that energise you.
And take time to just do nothing. Catch up on sleep, watch TV, get some take-out and play a board game.
Don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything when you stay in and do “nothing.”
Rest and white space are just as important as work.
10. Get to know your neighbourhood.
Reconnect with your everyday environment and you’ll make the city a slightly smaller place.
Find a few favorite cafes to visit regularly. Support local small businesses and artisans making things by hand. You’ll make daily meals and shopping a pleasure again – and not just another errand to run at the supermarket.