How can we slow down when life is so fast? It’s a question I ask myself a lot, especially on days when it feels like there are endless demands for my time. I have the perfect idea of how I’d love to go about my day-to-day life: mornings spent watching the sunrise, eggs collected from the backyard, daily walks in the forest, writing in a lovely home office with the perfect nature views, books read by the fire with a cup of tea in the evenings. But then reality kicks in.
Most of us, no matter how much we want a simple, slow life, have obstacles: careers in the city, financial constraints, an ill family member that needs care, a partner who prefers fast-paced living, a million different and legitimate reasons stopping us from living a perfectly slow life.
To get to a slower, simpler life, I asked myself one simple but crucial question. Are you making yourself rush? Sit down and really contemplate this. Are you making yourself rush? In a society that values busyness for the sake of appearing to be busy, often without or with few productive outcomes, we pick up a lot of subconscious habits. One of them tends to be telling ourselves and others “Oh, I don’t have time for that. I’m too busy.” We feel the need to be busy to feel validated in our lives. We get into a rushed mindset without any positive repercussions. And to relax, to slow down our frazzled and stressed minds, we collapse onto the sofa in the evening and flick through trashy TV channels and scroll through social media without a purpose.
After realizing I was making myself busy for the sake of looking busy to the outside world, the first thing I did to embrace a slower lifestyle was make time for my passions. I exchanged an hour of Facebook scrolling for thirty minutes of creative writing and thirty minutes of curling up with a good book and a warm cup of tea. I gave up the appearance of being busy and instead made time for the simple things, and life slowed down naturally.
This intentional shift in mindset and the awareness that we don’t have to be busy all the time can help give us more time spent with fulfillment and remind us to slow down and savour the important, slow, and simple moments in our lives.
Granted, the reality is that, even when we relinquish the need to be busy all the time, we still have plenty of commitments and activities which consume our day-to-day lives. Making little adjustments which can fit into a busy life can provide a slower pace to our days and create more time for the things we truly want.
→ Make dinner at home a priority
You don’t have to be a great cook and it doesn’t have to be a fancy meal; in fact, I find simple meals are the best, especially if you’re pressed for time. Set your table with your favourite placemats, play some music, light a candle, and enjoy your dinner at home with family or friends. I stopped rushing through my meals, put down my phone, and turned off the TV and directed my attention to the company of the people around me and the flavours of the food. Dinners became a chance to unwind and enjoy, no longer a rushed affair to get through in order to flop down on the couch faster.
→ Get connected with nature
When I lived in China, I was shocked by the number of beautifully kept parks all throughout the numerous cities I visited. There were endless seas of skyscrapers, exceedingly long work hours, and the constant connection to technology, but so too was there immediate access to immersion in the natural world. I quickly found that, especially after dinner and on the weekends, families and individuals would go for walks. It was a wonderful way to relieve stress, enjoy the beauty of nature, and slow down after a fast-paced day. By taking time to get connected with nature, whether it’s a brisk daily walk in the park or adding a few more plants to my flat, my stress levels have lowered and I can escape, even momentarily, from the rush of the world around me.
→ Pare down your belongings
Keep only what you treasure. A fast-paced lifestyle drags up images of a messy desk overflowing with papers, empty coffee cups stained around the rim, a phone constantly buzzing; all around disorder. While you might not be able to control your hectic work life, your home life can reflect your desire for simplicity, peace, and slowness. By keeping the things that bring you calm and happiness, you’re less likely to feel the same stressed or busy energy at home.
→ Spend a morning doing what you want to do (not what you have to do)
Take a few hours on a weekend morning (or whenever you’re most likely to be able to carve out some time for yourself) to savour the feeling that there’s nothing pressing or urgent for you to do or accomplish at that moment. Although I’m not a morning person, I find freeing up a weekend morning to be much more therapeutic than an evening, as I’m generally feeling tired after running errands, cooking, and doing other necessary things for the week ahead. Enjoying a few hours every Saturday or Sunday morning has become a sacred time for me, and I’m a happier person for it.
You can sleep in, do yoga, soak in the bath, bake cookies for yourself and your family, go for a run, anything you’ve wanted to do but put on the backburner. At times, when we’ve been going so fast for so long, chronically stressed and burnt out, we forget what we love. Doing what you love can take time to rediscover. I found it helpful to sit in my bedroom (my favourite room of the house), light my favourite candle, and write a list of all the things I used to love to do and miss in my life. Bringing those joys back to my life, even though I’m technically doing more with my free time, slowed down my days.
→ Disconnect from technology
Take time to get away from technology: set aside your phone, turn off the TV, shut down your laptop. So many of the hobbies we once derived much value from have been neglected in favour of trashy TV and mindlessly social media scrolling. I try to spend at least an hour, if not more, in the evenings away from my electronics. Not only do I get more done and derive more enjoyment from tasks, I’ve also found that time slows down when I’m not connected to technology.