As with any so-called “movement” you can choose to hop on board and try it for a while, or, you can make a positive change and embrace a permanent and new way of living. The art of slow and purposeful living means you’ll need to retrain your brain and make each day count. What you’ll learn here are a few simple tweaks I’ve made in my own life by looking for areas where small changes can be made.
What is the Slow Living Movement?
The clue is in the name, and in a nutshell, it’s a slower approach to everyday living that can be applied to all aspects of our lives. Slow living opposes consumerism and a materialistic ideology moreover, the focus is on making purposeful choices, spending well (quality over quantity) and not frittering our money on unnecessary purchases. Of course, there’s more to it than that, read on to find out how you can try a new, slower and more appreciative way of living your own life.
Don’t just hear – listen. Don’t just see, look
To put this into context, when my daughter was born I couldn’t wait for her first smile, her first chuckle, and a toothy grin to appear. Then, as soon as she began crawling I wanted her to hurry up and start walking – you get the idea. I cherished every bit of her development and as a first-time mum, I was elated as she reached each of her milestones, but I wanted her to hurry up and interact with me. As time ticked by, she moved on from being “a baby” into a little personality and life couldn’t be better. On reflection, I should’ve lived in the moment and just slowed down.
I’m thankful to be a mother. Had I been fortunate enough to have produced a much yearned for second child I would’ve taken time to savour each stage instead of hurrying it all along in my mind. The neuroticisms of being the mum of one do begin to subside but that innate, in-built need to protect and nurture our young never leaves us and is something to be cherished and held tightly in our hearts. Learning to appreciate today’s moments with our children is crucial to combat regretful feelings once they’ve flown the nest. That’s a theory I’ve come up with, at least.
I’m now the mother of a teenager, (and a whole lot older myself) a new reversal of the above is occurring – I really want to slow down what’s left of her childhood. This post isn’t meant to be about myself and my daughter per se, but a spark to reignite a positive change in not only a mindset, but a way of becoming more appreciative of each moment, each day, and become more mindful and thankful of what we have and how our days are spent.
Start each day with a thankful journal and write a list of all you are grateful for. It really does keep you grounded whilst you learn to appreciate what you already have.
“Children grow up all too quickly so watch them slowly and enjoy their primary years as it’s all change once those years are behind them”.
Slow and purposeful living is learning to appreciate nature
Nature grounds and calms us, but how often do we take time to stop and smell the roses? as the saying goes. Step outside and scrutinise the detail of a leaf or the silver lining of a cloud and you’ll quickly de-stress and relax your eyes giving a much-needed respite from screen-work. Climb a hill and stand looking at the view, but don’t just look, really analyse and examine all that’s before you. As you gaze into the distance, the muscles in your eyes relax allowing you to focus on those far-reaching nuggets you’d otherwise miss. Try it, It’s great for the soul. I’ve grown up appreciating the marvels all around us and often my sister and I will text each other and say “look at the moon!” Or, “did you see the sunset this evening?”
“I sometimes pull the car over as I drive through the lanes on my way home so that I can sit and look at the sky for a few moments. Particularly when there’s a beautiful or unusual cloud formation. This simple action of staring up at infinite skies transports me to another universe, whilst feeling impossibly minuscule”.
Do you ever hear bird song? When was the last time you actually listened to it? We can’t switch off our hearing, but often, we’re simply hearing, and not actually listening – There’s a difference. When the warmer months allow a bedroom window to be left open, it’s a joy to lie in bed, feel the cooling breeze of the early morning air on one’s skin and be serenaded by the dawn chorus. Literally nothing better and brings a sense of thankfulness.
Embrace sunlight – it warms the soul
One thing we take for granted is that the sun will rise and set each day and we only seem to notice when there’s a run of gloomy days and our mood starts to falter. The sun is our life force and when it’s hiding away behind the clouds it can have a negative impact on our well-being. Always try to look on the bright side – literally. The more time we spend outside soaking up the daylight (and sunlight, if we’re lucky) the better our body and brain will function. We’ll sleep better after the daylight gives our Circadian Rhythm a helpful nudge.
That feeling of security and safety from wrapping oneself in a warm blanket and enjoying the flicker of a soothing candle, or two, is irreplaceable. Make better choices with your candles and don’t let the joy of a quiet, cosy evening be the reason your home is polluted with harmful toxins. keep things simple and avoid unnecessary chemicals, not just in candles and tealights but wherever you can, at home.
Our evenings are “sofa time” where we gather as a family, chatter and enjoy a film or favourite programme for a couple of hours and is a time I look forward to at the end of each day.
Eat well to nourish body and soul
The Slow Food Movement began in Italy after McDonald’s opened near the Spanish steps in Rome 1986, and was met with outrage and protests – quite rightly so. Italy’s traditions of locally grown food, farming and cooking were under threat from a new wave of processed, fast food, going completely against the grain of Italy’s heritage. We’re all guilty of rushing around, grabbing food on the go or preparing the quickest and probably least a nourishing meal for our family simply because there’s no time. Make time.
Food not only nourishes our body and provides energy and nutrients for good health, but also replenishes the soul. Set time aside on a Sunday evening to consider your meals for the coming week and make a list of ingredients you’ll need to buy. If you can prepare your lunches ahead of time it’ll prevent you from rushing out to buy something you wouldn’t ordinarily choose, just for the sake of eating lunch. A handful of fresh blueberries is a great choice after lunch and will help with productivity for the remainder of the day.
Try to adopt a cooking from scratch approach, eat clean and cut back on sugary snacks in between meals.
Find time to just sit and think
Reflection is powerful. Focus on your breathing, turn off the brain chatter and cast your mind back to fond childhood memories or happy times and let go of sad, sorrowful or stressful times, leave the past where it belongs, you’re not going that way.
Use your fingers for something other than scrolling
Step away from your device. Go outside and gather from the hedgerows or look around your garden or local woodland for whatever catches your eye and bring it indoors for a little creative time out. I wouldn’t dash out and pick wildflowers as this is frowned upon but collect fallen twigs and forage for sprigs and leaves with unusual markings or shapes. A vase full of foliage can be just as beautiful as freshly cut flowers from the shop or florist and more rewarding when you gathered and arranged it yourself.
Of course, there are plenty more ways to embrace the Slow Living Movement and living minimally with less “stuff” is one. Read more on that here where I offer suggestions on how to live with less.
Hopefully, you’ve found inspiration from how I try to embrace the art of slow and purposeful living. Will you make 2021 a slow year?
Be mindful that some of natures wild offerings can be toxic to children and/or domestic animals, so it’s worth a quick check first.