I sit down to write this after roughly 15 rabbit trails, and I’ve only been up for over 2 hours and on screens for 40 minutes. That is to say, slow living doesn’t come naturally to me.
I have lived my entire life full speed ahead. I began working for pay at 11 years old, and the only reason I didn’t start earlier was because the paper routes were taken. I did 8th grade in a summer because I was bored, started college at 16, finished my associates and moved away to school at 18, and graduated with my B.A. at 20. I am the epitome of an enneagram 7, extremely hyperactive, and I get excited about pretty much anything I get to do. Cook dinner? I’m gonna find the most amazing recipe I can make with a zucchini, half of an eggplant, 2 baby bella mushrooms, and a tablespoon of cream cheese because that’s all I have in the fridge but it’s fine (actually this story ended deliciously). Time to learn a language? I just downloaded 6 apps with 4 reminders each and also I’m only reading books in that language now. Time to work? I’m about to get everything on my checklist done in a quarter of the time allotted, actually it’s already done, got anything else I can do?
Y’all, I’m so hyperactive caffeine slows me down and helps me focus.
Living slow does not come naturally to me, but I’m learning to cultivate it in a way that doesn’t require me to force it.
As I’ve continued to pursue minimalism and live with chronic pain, I’ve become continually more entranced by the thought of slow living. I follow several slow living minimalists on Instagram, and felt a pull to the kind of life they described. Intentional living, soaking up moments, sometimes literally slowing down to smell the roses. In a world of overstimulation, filled with advertisements and shows to watch and podcasts to hear and projects to do and all of it has to be picture perfect and done right now… the thought of a lifestyle that cuts through the hustle and clutter of life has quite the allure. I just wasn’t sure if it would be realistic for me.
… now coming back to writing this after taking Ink out, sorting the mail, running an errand, cleaning out my inbox, and scheduling an MRI.
I think that, a lot like with minimalism in general, the problem is we hold ourselves to too high of a standard, and end up not trying at all or running ourselves into the ground. If we have to be on screens for hours a day for work, what’s the point in trying to reduce it? If we can’t just not do chores or hire someone to do them for us, what’s the point in trying to simplify routines to make it easier and less time consuming? It feels like if we’ll never get the perfect score, there’s no point in playing the game.
This is for the person who’s not about to put their life on hold, but could use a little more breathing room in their days. The career-chaser who loves working but is tired of running on too little sleep between work and networking and housework and the gym and all the other commitments and must-dos of modern life. The person who wants more time with loved ones and books they actually want to read instead of endless to-dos and researching things that will change again tomorrow.
Basically, this is for people like me.
Slow living is for people like you too.
Slow living doesn’t mean you have to quit your job, become a hermit, or rid your home of screens. If it did, I would be sprinting the other direction, because I love working, being around people, and utilizing the beauty of technology. Slow living is just about focusing more on the present moment and being more purposeful on how we spend our time and energy. Instead of multitasking our way to burnout, doing one thing at a time and focusing on that task, that project, that conversation. Instead of writing endless checklists and refusing to sleep until we check every box, prioritizing what needs to be done each day and planning the rest around that. Enjoying our screen time, but setting aside 30-60 minutes every morning and night to put away the screens and play with pets, read books, play instruments, be creative.
If you’re a speedy, check-all-the-boxes person like me who wants a little more breathing room and intentionality, here are a few ways to begin your journey to slow living.
- Set screen time limits on your phone. If you’re an iPhone user, your device has a setting called Downtime that will restrict certain apps for certain hours each day. If you’re an Android user, 5.0 and any updates after that should have a similar setting. I allow calls and messages from favorite contacts, podcasts, and Spotify, but block all other apps from 10pm until 7am each day, giving me about an hour after waking up to focus on getting ready and making breakfast without getting sucked into email or social media. Try to find some version of this that works for you, and wake up a little more slowly.
- Start actually preparing and sitting down to eat one meal each day. Not just throwing something together and wolfing down everything to get to the next task, but really savoring it. Try eating without a screen in front of you.
- Go for a walk. If you have a pet or people living with you, take them with if you can. Leave your phone in your pocket, play a podcast or playlist through earbuds if you want, but try to get comfortable with the quiet too.
- Mute your phone when you go out with people. Don’t check for texts, calls, or social media alerts with a human right in front of you. Set the few people who actually might need to reach you in an emergency to favorites, and mute all other notifications.
- Go through your accounts and unfollow. If you don’t like them, if they post obnoxious or offensive things, if you don’t even really know who they are anymore, if you hate seeing their stuff, just remove them from your newsfeed. Chances are, they won’t even notice. Follow only accounts that you actually enjoy following, whether for content or because you know them.
- Journal. Turn off the music, the podcast, the video, whatever content you’re consuming, sit for a minute with your thoughts, and write out whatever is on your mind or heart. To-do lists you need to get out of your head, feelings to process, events to unpack, silly little thoughts you want to remember… whatever is on your mind. Physically get out a writing utensil and paper and just write it all out.
- Try to only use one screen at a time when you are on a device. This might seem silly to include, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put on a show, gotten bored with the plot, and pulled out my phone or laptop to start doing something else. Whatever you’re watching or doing, try to focus on that. If it’s not worth your attention, just turn it off.
Do you have any slow living methods of your own to add? What has been the most helpful part of your slow living routine, or if you’re just starting out, what do you want to try first?