Sometimes, life just feels overwhelming. Whether it’s a pile of dirty laundry, a long list of unread emails, a sick child or an ever-growing workload, our minds enter a panic mode and we think we can’t cope. Harvard professors, Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, blame the complexity of modern life on leaving many of us “in over our heads”.
But there’s a solution to the overwhelm, and it’s as simple as pouring yourself a glass of water—a slow-paced life.
In her beautiful little book Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World, much admired Australian podcaster and writer Brooke McAlary explains: “The foundation of slow remains the same: a return to high-quality basics, a reevaluation of the largely unnecessary ‘must-haves’ of modern life, and a focus on going small, local and community-based.”
Should I convince you that Brooke is right about slow living?
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Why Choose a Slower Paced Life?
I like this old saying by the Greek storyteller Aesop: “Slow and steady win the race”. By embracing my inner tortoise and reducing the ‘speed’ of life, I was able to create the business I love while also becoming a more mindful mother, partner and a friend.
In his popular TED Talk, journalist Carl Honoré proves that the world’s emphasis on speed erodes our health, productivity and the quality of life. And that by putting the brakes on our busy lives, we can enjoy ourselves more.
Think about it this way: if you’re sitting on a bullet train travelling at 320 km/h, what can you see from your window? A blurry view that may give you a headache.
But if you take a mindful walk without any distractions like texting or listening to music, you may spot a dragonfly, a rare bird or a colourful rainbow. All the marvels of life are sitting on our doorsteps waiting to be discovered.
Because slowing down, quite literally, opens our senses to new experiences.
8 Slow Living Tips
If you’ve ever asked yourself “How can I live a slower life?”, this list is for you. Here are eight ways to push back against busy and embrace a slower, more intentional life.
SHORTEN YOUR MENTAL ‘TO-DO’ LIST
Having many things on your ‘to-do’ list can surely make everyone feel stressed and frazzled. But what if you exchanged your ‘shoulds’ for ‘maybes’ by starting to weed your daily list of chores?
One way is to delegate. If you have friends or family you can turn to, then don’t be ashamed to ask for help with an overflow of tasks. If you’re on your own, assign a small budget to outsource help.
I know that depending on your situation, this can feel daunting—so don’t be afraid to start small. What is one simple way of taking something off your plate?
Another way of clearing your mental ‘to-do’ list is by granting yourself permission to rest. If you want to spend less time cleaning, and you’d rather use that time for some healthy self-care rituals (swimming, meditating or going for a walk), don’t hesitate to do it.
Again, I know it’s hard when you feel like there’s “always so much to do”, but I encourage you to try. Challenge the stories you tell yourself about busyness, and look for pockets of time to slow down.
Related Post: 7 Tips to Declutter Your Mind
SAY NO + SCHEDULE LESS
Sometimes, we feel obliged to socialise. We cram our schedules with playdates, coffee catch-ups and various social commitments to the point of not even enjoying the thought of them.
If you know that a slow weekend may do wonders for your wellbeing, don’t be scared to say ‘no’ to invitations. Finding time and balance to live a slow-paced life requires making choices.
DECLUTTER YOUR PHYSICAL WORLD
The process of slowing down and simplifying life always starts at home. Part of our journey to the more mindful and simple life is having less material things.
I feel that a slow-paced life and minimalism go well together. At its core, minimalism is about stripping out excess stuff to make room for the things that matter or are useful.
Less stuff leads to less stress and worries about things getting damaged, less anxiety-inducing clutter, less cleaning, less money spent, more funds for travel, more space for dreaming and roaming about, and so much more.
If you need help with decluttering your home, I invite you to download a copy of Mindful Decluttering. This free guide has helped tens of thousands of other like-minded souls declutter their home (and their lives).
Get instant access by subscribing, using the form below—and as a bonus, you’ll also get my newsletter with special offers, simple living tips, and regular inspiration.
WRITE IT ALL OUT
If there’s one thing that I’d admit, it’s that change never happens overnight. We have to take cues from nature on this one. Birthing a life—whether it’s a blooming flower, a new company or a human baby—takes some growing.
As a reformed shopaholic, I’ve experienced this firsthand. It took some time and a lot of practice to move from overspending to leading a simple, mindful and slow-paced life.
A change may not happen overnight, but it does start in our heads. Sometimes, we need to encourage growth by shifting our patterns of thinking.
Writing down the thoughts by journaling is a great way to tap into your inner mind. It is as if you were pulling thoughts out of your subconscious mind and out into the real world.
After a while, you may see which patterns are not healthy (buying too much, worrying about small things, fighting over details, etc.), and then you have the awareness required to shift them.
If you like non-structured writing and are not scared of a blank page, open your notebook every morning to jot down anything that comes to mind.
If you prefer to have a plan, try to set some time for these little writing exercises or journaling ideas. You can create:
- A bucket list
- A travel wishlist
- A list of things that bring you joy
- A list of things you can be grateful for
Writing helps us to ground into a simple and mindful practice.
INTRODUCE SIMPLE YET POWERFUL RITUALS
Transition into an intentionally slow-paced living may not be easy, but we can surely make it enjoyable.
When I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed, these three simple rituals help me to slow down and relax: lighting, scent and sound.
For example, around 6 pm most evenings, I dim the lights (by turning off overhead lighting and switching to small lamps), put on a calming playlist (my current favourite is the Into the Wild soundtrack), and then diffuse some lavender oil.
Pleasant smells and relaxing sounds reconnect us to our bodies. So take the time to transform everyday routines into mindful moments, and you’ll rediscover the beauty of life. (It also makes bedtime easier, if you’ve got little ones at home!)
There is a Zen proverb that goes: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day—unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”
Of course, it doesn’t mean that meditation is the only sure path to a happy life, or that we have to sit in silence for hours on end. But being still with our own thoughts—without interruptions and distractions—resets our brains like nothing else.
We all appreciate our smartphones for the modern convenience they offer, but being ‘plugged in’ 24/7 means that we’re subject to an outpour of information coming in. It’s hard to slow down when you’re always checking your phone for new emails or messages.
I find the digital detox particularly hard, but I can also see the benefits it brings. A weekend without the phone or working on a computer makes me feel lighter and more present. I see more. I laugh more. I get more creative.
Related Post: A Minimalist’s Guide to Using Social Media Wisely + Mindfully
… AND THEN RECONNECT
I think that the best reason for disconnecting from the modern side of life is to reconnect with the things that truly matter.
Brooke McAlary sums it up nicely: “Slow living provides an opportunity to step back, pay attention and question the ways we use technology.”
By leaving our minds and hearts uncluttered by social media, we can form more meaningful bonds. Instead of clicking on a ‘like’ on Facebook or Instagram, we can give a compliment to someone we love. Instead of writing a random comment, we can have a soulful chat with our elderly neighbour.
So switch off our phones and get outside. Talk to people. Watch the clouds pass by.
CHANGE THE CONVO
Talking about how busy we are has become a cultural norm. It’s often the first thing we say in greeting, and it sets the tone for the conversation.
As a community, how would our lives be different if we stopped putting busyness at the centre of our conversations and chose ‘slow conversations’? And what if we stopped using mindless complaining as our primary form of connection?
It might be the most comfortable option, but I think we deserve better. Mindless complaining drains our energy and adds to the mental load of those around us without providing any value in exchange.
So next time you meet your old friend, why not experiment with sharing less but more meaningful information? Tell them about a book you’ve read or recommend a playlist.
Also, if we want to welcome slow and simple into our lives, then I think we need to get comfortable with silence. Silence creates the space we need to reflect on our thoughts—so that when we do speak, we add value and not mental clutter.
Resources for a Slow-Paced Life
If you like to read more about slowing down, here are some blog posts and books you might enjoy.
- 10 Ways To Slow Down a Busy Day
- A Book That Takes Its Time: An Unhurried Adventure in Creative Mindfulness—I don’t own many physical books, but this one is well worth owning.
- Finding the Balance Between Rest + Hustle
- 12 Tiny Tips to Make Time for Yourself
What are your tips for slowing down and enjoying life? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!