Six Ways to embrace "Slower Living"
Let's stop taking time for granted and slow it all down.
Time really does fly.
Another year is coming to an end and this year in 2021 sure has been one heck of a rocky ride hasn't it?
I'm not sure if everyone else feels the same, but a little part of me wishes that time would just get on with it so that we can return to "normal life".
At least before COVID-19 came along and took that away.
What does normal life look like? Well, for one, I sure am looking forward to not having to wear a mask everywhere I go, as well as being able to see people's faces out in the open again.
Then there's travel too. I hope to head to Japan or Korea early next year to catch the end of winter.
Well, I'll just keep hoping.
Are we living in a constant rush?
Even though I started with the example of COVID-19, where I'm sure there is no doubt we are all hoping will rush by and be over, have you ever felt that you were also rushing through your lives?
I know I sure have and it's not just me.
Talking to a lot of people out there, it seems that most of us have somehow naturalised the habit of turning every moment of our lives into some sort of race to the finish.
It's a race to be busy and productive.
We rush to work, rush to finish our meals, rush for the work day to be over, and then rush to make sure our weekends are full of pleasurable activities.
Progress feels important, so we also rush to get to our next stage of life. Be it a career promotion, a relationship, a family, a house upgrade - sometimes it feels like a constant push to get to the next better thing.
When will it end?
It's no wonder may of us are breathless by the end of the day and feel a little jaded by life.
It's time to get off that treadmill.
Enter "Slow Living".
Slow living began as a movement in 1986 which actually started out from a protest. This protest was against the approval of a fast-food restaurant in Piazza di Spagna, in the heart of Rome.
Despite its humble beginning based on the concept of food, it has filtered out to various other aspects of lives, including parenting and in the work context too.
Embracing "slowness" is a way to challenge the idea that we need to be busy all the time. Instead, to start paying attention to the important things in life, and slow it down to a pace where we can truly enjoy it.
It is the stepping stone to happiness, because when we live at a slower pace, we are more in the moment and able to immerse ourselves in what we are doing and take full pleasure from it.
It calms our breathing and reduces stress.
That said, it's not about lowering down our efficiency or being idle. No, not at all. It's about creating balance and allocating part of time to savour the best things in life.
How different would you life be if you weren't whirling from on thing to the next?
So, here are six ways to get started.
1) Find your Slow Ritual.
You can start by finding a new hobby where the focus isn't on being productive or having it as a form of distraction (ugh mobile games).
Slow hobbies are really about savouring time and enjoying an activity purely for the sake of doing it.
It's also about rediscovering a playful side of you that may have been locked away since you've become a busy adult.
Here's a few slow hobby suggestions.
Try a calligraphy class or painting and drawing. I've been to a caligraphy workshop once before and it was incredibly carthatic. Feeling each slow stroke of the pen and looking at the way the ink spreads across paper. It's an enjoyable little slow activity and one you can do at your own time too.
Knitting isn't just for grandma's. If you're entirely new to this, my wife recently started Punch Needle art. It's easy to pick up and she really enjoys this slow activity.
Reading and writing and music. As I write this now, I remind myself not to rush through this but to just take the time to enjoy it. I enjoy listening to music as I write, and right now I've got this lovely dreamscape podcast playing in the background.
The list is pretty endless. You can even try puzzles like jigsaws, or get into the habit of molding clay structures, painting figurines, keeping house plants and attending to them slowly and mindfully.
So go on then, find your slow ritual :)
2) Try Slow Household Chores.
I just took a break to wash the dishes (before my wife yells at me) and if you're anything like me, you probably detest doing household chores too.
Why not embrace it, slowly?
Instead of rushing through mopping your house, ironing your clothes, making the bed and washing the dishes - slow it all down.
I mean, what's the rush? Why treat it as part of your day you have to rush to get through. It is still very much a slice of your day that shouldn't go wasted by in haste.
Treat it as a time to be with yourself and your home. Get a closer sense of this amazing little space you've been calling home for a while now.
Sense your home.
Enjoy your time with it.
3) Try Slow Exercise.
Believe it or not, exercising slowly can make you feel more energised compared to a more frantic workout. Moving deliberately slowly and breathing deeply increases your oxygen levels, detoxifies your body and promotes a healthier heart and mind.
Probably nothing more obvious comes to mind than Yoga, along with pilates and the like. I'll have to be honest though, I haven't really given yoga a decent shot. I will put it down for my new year's resolutions for 2022.
Otherwise, and I'm going to sound like a broken record here, but swimming has been my form of slow exercise for a while now.
The rhythmic lap of the water with each stroke, the focus on technique and breathing, really helps me to keep my mind focused on this activity.
So whether it is you've been jogging, running or cycling, try it out - don't rush through your exercise.
Go at it slowly and deliberately.
Get in touch with your body again.
4) Slow Eating and Slow Food.
"Eat Slowly lah" might be the sort of thing your mum used to say when you were small and scoffing down your food so you can carry on playing, but there are major benefits in taking your time to chew your food.
For example, eating slowly helps to keep off the excess weight. That's because your brain takes some time to be aware that you are full, and eating quickly results in eating more than you really need to.
It's also difficult to really enjoy your food if you're gobbling it down like some Viking warrior.
Savour each mouthful and don't treat eating as another task to be rushed! Especially since meal times are the times we deem as "breaks" in our days (i.e. lunchbreak).
So go on and really enjoy that cai fan the next time you have it.
5) Embrace the Slowness of Nature
Being a big fan of nature, I can dedicate multiple posts to this topic, but really, when was the last time you turned off all your gadgets and dedicated some time to immersing yourself in nature?
I've wrote multiple times on the concept of "taking a forest bath". Here's a simple activity to try out.
The next time you're in a park or on a hike, find a quiet little spot and close your eyes for a minute.
For that one minute, just listen to sounds of the wind and the swaying of trees around you. Breathe, and take in all the scents of wherever it is you are.
Don't hurry, don't worry. And be sure to small the flowers along the way.
- Walter Hagen
Other Slow Nature activities can also include:
Watching the birds chirp and play
Enjoying rain on your face
Lie on the grass and look up
Sit on a hill and watch the sunset
Watch a storm from your window
Look up at the night sky and enjoy the stars and moon.
6) Slow down time and be Present.
Last but not least, there is this really special practice you can do that can actually slow down time.
Mindfulness is all about focusing on the magic of the present moment.
The busiest place on earth is not getting on the early morning train to Shinjuku, or getting stuck in a Bangkok traffic jam. The busiest place on earth is probably our own minds.
We are constantly thinking and planning and fretting about the past or worrying about the future. It is in our minds that we get most lost in the busyness of life.
The aim of mindfulness is to experience this very moment of our life. The now. The present.
And it is in the present moment is where we live.
So why not slow it down and enjoy it?
You don't need an app like headspace or calm for mindfulness. I practice it purely on my own nowadays.
However, understand that some of you out there might be new to this. Here's my personal recommendation - try one that doesn't involve the guidance of another human voice.
It gets in the way of practice and really getting in touch with yourself and yourself only.
Try out this mindfulness bell below. The practice is simple:
Close your eyes for the next five minutes
Settle into an easy and relaxed position
Listen to the sound of the bells fade in and out
Focus on your breathing, slowly and gently.
Pay attention to when you find yourself distracted with a thought or emotion, be aware of it and give it a nod.
Then go back to focusing on breathing.
Try it out.