Slow living isn’t synonymous with city life. Here are some tips for living a balanced and unhurried life – even in the big city.
Think slow living and you’ll likely picture a country cottage, tea and a flickering candle over an open book.
That is, after all, the aesthetic that Instagram and Pinterest shows 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 more young people are leaving the countryside behind.
And slow living is often just a weekend thing – or an aspiration that feels unrealistic.
But how can slow living work for us – where we are? Even if that’s an apartment on a noisy street with annoying neighbours?
Here are some tips for slow living in the city:
1. Make your home a sanctuary
When you’re living in a fast-paced city, you don’t want to come home to more overwhelm and clutter.
A clean, clutter-free yet cozy space gives you a sanctuary and a place to recharge – not a space that will just add to your anxiety.
Here’s how to create a comfortable home:
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 or stark.
Keep it clean. Dust or piles of laundry are depressing to look at.
2. Create a green oasis in your home
Did you know: just looking at the color green reduces your stress levels.
To create a green oasis in your home, fill your garden with a few plants that are easy to maintain if you’re busy. Deck your balcony with potted plants and some lounge chairs to create an oasis of tranquillity.
And if you don’t have a garden or a balcony, then bring a few luscious potted plants into your living room and line your windowsills with greenery. If you have pets that eat your plants then get some plastic plants – they’re quite realistic these days.
3. Create moments of slow and turn them into habits
If you attempt to entirely transform your life, then you’ll probably fall short and get discouraged.
You’re more likely to get results and stay motivated when you create small yet consistent habits. Slow living in the city isn’t easy, but it’s possible with a few changes.
Injecting moments of slow into your day is as simple as a morning coffee on your 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, but you’ll be better rested – and that will ultimately boost your productivity.
4. Turn off in the evenings
Big cities never sleep and it’s tempting to stay on at night answering messages and emails, or going out when you’d rather be resting.
When you’re done with work, truly put it away and dismiss those nagging thoughts that every waking moment should be filled with activity.
You might feel so exhausted that you just want to binge on the latest series or scroll Instagram all 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 stuck in traffic, use that time for meditation with an app, an audio book or an inspiring podcast. When you’re going from one meeting to another, make your commute a time to recharge and slow down.
6. Find some quiet spots in the city
Whether it’s a neighbourhood cafe or a corner park, find some quiet places that don’t get too busy for your lunch breaks or weekend outings.
If you live in a city near water, then put that on your itinerary. Studies show that water makes you 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 leaving it.
7. Practice mindfulness
The streets we walk everyday fade into routine and we hardly notice them anymore.
Stay mindful of your environment and stay 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 your phone when you’re on the go. These small acts nurture your creativity and help fight dull routine.
8. Ignore small annoyances
Whether it’s an Uber driver who can’t read their GPS, or colleagues chatting loudly at your desk, consider if anger 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 that make things by hand.
This makes eating out and shopping a pleasure – and not just another errand to the supermarket.