This post is going to be a little different than previous ones. It’s about my journey into slow living. It’s going to be practical, real and hopefully helpful. I’ll also share some personal things with you, as I believe it’s important to keep things transparent around here, so that you know me better as a person and not just as a blogger.
I’ve been on a mission to regain my footing in life after experiencing burnout, and a huge part of that process has been slowing things down. Today I’m talking about ways to slow down and live more intentionally to help you reduce stress and live fully. In a culture that values productivity and speed, slowing down can be a radical choice. But it’s one worth making if you are looking for more meaning, joy, and health in your life.
For me, slowing down means choosing quality over quantity. It looks like practicing mindfulness and presence in the moment instead of rushing ahead to the next task. It means minimizing distractions so I can be fully engaged in whatever I’m doing. And it means simplifying my life so I have the mental capacity to give my best back to the world.
Maybe this is something you want too? If so, here are some ways to slow things down and prioritize meaningful and intentional living:
What is Slow Living?
Slow living is a popular philosophy that encourages people to live more intentionally and in the present moment. It’s not just about slowing down, but also about being mindful of where you spend your time and energy.
Slow living is about recognizing what is truly important to you and connecting with those priorities on a daily basis. The idea is that if you become more mindful of your choices, you can create a life that’s deeply satisfying and fulfilling.
It’s becoming easier than ever to be busy. You’re constantly connected to work via email, social media and messaging apps. Even if you’re not at your desk, you can be stuck in an endless loop of mindless scrolling on your phone.
It’s easy to get swept up into this frenetic pace of life, but it often comes at the expense of your health and well-being. So many people are stressed out and unhappy because they’ve lost touch with what really matters to them.
The Slow Living philosophy advocates for slowing down, simplifying your life and regaining control over how you spend your time and energy. Life should be savored rather than rushed through. You should be intentional with how you spend your time and make sure every choice aligns with what’s truly important to you.
Here are 20 Ways to Slow Down and Live Intentionally
1. Spend Time in Nature
Slow living is a way to reconnect with nature. For me, it means embracing seasonal living and getting outside more regularly. The majority of us are incredibly disconnected from nature. I know I was—and it wasn’t until I left my stressful job that I began to understand how deeply we’re all affected by this disconnection. We’ve lost touch with the seasons; we don’t even know when a certain vegetable is “in season” anymore because it’s been shipped in from somewhere else.
As a result, our minds and bodies have become so unaccustomed to the natural rhythms of life that stress has become the norm for many people. This is why one of my main goals with this blog is to help others reconnect with nature—and to do it by slowing down and taking things one step at a time.
Research has proven there are real health benefits to being around trees and plants. Spending time in green spaces reduces stress levels and helps you concentrate better. A study by Finnish scientists at the University of Helsinki found that people who spent time in a forest had reduced blood pressure, heart rates, and cortisol (the stress hormone) levels compared with those who walked through an urban environment. So when we spend time in nature, our bodies relax in response.
There is also something about being part of something much bigger than yourself that can make life feel more meaningful; just being able to look up at night and see thousands of stars can create a sense of awe and wonder.
2. Declutter Your Life
Embracing a slow living lifestyle means decluttering both your physical and digital life. Clutter has a way of creeping into our lives. It happens slowly, so we don’t notice the accumulation of things until it gets out of hand. When you feel overwhelmed by the pileup of paper, clothes, or emails in your life, it’s time to declutter. Here are tips for getting started:
Physical clutter: go through your closet or office drawers or kitchen cabinets and get rid of anything that you haven’t used in the last six months (or year)
Digital Clutter: Set up a digital filing system (and use it). If you’re like most people, much of what comes into your life arrives via email. Create categories in your email inbox that correspond to various parts of your life (home, family, hobbies). Sort your inbox into these folders and delete emails that you don’t need.
Go through your computer files the same way. Sort all your files into folders, for example, one for work documents, another for photos, etc., so that everything has its place. Then delete anything you don’t need anymore and offload older files onto a portable hard drive or cloud storage system.
3. Say "No" More Often
I’ve been a yes-person for most of my life. I always wanted to please people, and I was always afraid of disappointing anyone. So when someone asked me to do something, I didn’t just say yes. I said “yes” with exclamation points and an enthusiastic smile.
This came from a good place. I wanted to be helpful; I wanted to be liked; I wanted to be important. But saying yes all the time created a problem: It led me down paths that weren’t true to me, and ultimately created more stress, anxiety, and overwhelm in my life. All things I had too much of already. So, what did I do? I started living slowly and I learned to say “no”.
Saying yes to something means you are also saying no to something else. By saying yes to too many things, we often miss out on our priorities and the things we truly value.
So what are some ways you can start saying no? Let’s say someone calls you and asks if you can help out with a committee for a local charity event that sounds kind of dull and uninteresting. You don’t have the time to commit but feel bad about it so you say yes anyway. Well, this is another example of how saying yes to something means saying no to yourself. Next time someone asks you to do something, try saying “I would love to help out but I’m not able to at this time. Thank you for thinking of me!”
4. Be a Conscious Consumer
Slow living often leads to being more mindful of consumerism and our consumption of “stuff”. Conscious consumption is also about shopping in ways one believes makes a positive social, environmental, or economic impact. It’s a form of consumption that has been described as “buying things with a clear conscience” and “modernized thrift.” It usually involves buying products that are environmentally friendly, ethically produced, fairly traded, and/or cruelty-free.
The most simple way to be a conscious consumer is to buy secondhand. Buying preloved clothing stops items going straight to landfill, reduces the demand for cheap fast fashion and cuts down on the amount of new items being produced.
Buying preloved also means you’re not contributing to the exploitation of garment workers, who are often forced to work in unsafe conditions for minimal wages. And, as an added bonus, you’re saving money and supporting local charities by shopping at your local op shop!
Since adopting a slow living lifestyle, I have begun to almost exclusively shop for “new to me” items from thrift stores. My top three favorites are Goodwill, Salvation Army, and our local Restore (Habitat for Humanity. I have gotten some fantastic deals at these places, but to be honest, I don’t shop that often anymore. I have found that by slowing down, I actually feel less need to accumulate stuff.
Buying ethically produced clothing
Ethical fashion focuses on the workers who produce our clothes and their working conditions. A lot of ethical brands produce clothing from organic or sustainable materials too, but it’s important to note that being ethical isn’t always synonymous with being sustainable.
5. Start a Slow Hobby
Embrace slow living by starting a slow hobby. Slow hobbies are activities that demand your undivided attention, forcing you to be mindful, fully present, and focused on the task at hand. Some examples of slow hobbies might be:
- Hiking or walking
6. Grow it Yourself
The garden is a place where I can slow down and get into the rhythm of nature, and is one of the activities that unites many slow living advocates. As I weed and water, plant, and harvest, I’m not just growing vegetables; I’m also growing my sense of place.
Gardening is a great way to slow down and get into the rhythm of nature. As a society, we have lost touch with the natural cycles that support us. We buy food from all over the world, even if it’s out of season here. We’re so used to having everything all the time that we don’t know what’s in season when. But as you get to know your garden, you become familiar with the seasonal rhythms: what goes in when, what grows best together and how long before you can harvest each crop.
As your garden matures, you feel more in harmony with nature’s cycles, rather than trying to force them to go your way. You tend your plot and harvest foods that you enjoy, eat them when they’re fresh and local, and grow them without chemicals.
7. Eat Mindfully
For me, slow living has meant being much more conscious of the food I consume, but also taking my time and enjoying my food. Eat slowly and mindfully: pay attention to the taste, temperature, and texture of your food.
There is amazing power in the simple act of eating mindfully. We savor each bite and experience gratitude for the gift of nourishment.
Eating is one of the most basic human activities, yet so often it becomes a chore or a mindless activity. We eat in front of the TV, we eat on the run, and we don’t even notice whether we are hungry or not. Create habits with your family that make eating together a priority. Make meals a social time, turning off all gadgets.
In a world that is so connected and always available, it’s easy to be distracted. We are constantly connected to our devices, available at the touch of a button at any given moment.
Unplugging regularly and not being open to all of the distractions our modern connectivity brings can really open up new avenues in your life.
Being able to slow down and be intentional with our time, attention and focus allows us to truly enjoy each moment as it comes. It allows us to prioritize what’s important to us and what we want to do with our time. It allows us to become more present in our lives.
Taking time regularly to unplug and focus on what matters most to you can be an incredibly freeing experience. It can allow you to live your life in alignment with your values, rather than feeling like you’re just trying to keep up or keep pace with everyone else around you.
The benefits of unplugging include:
- Healthier relationships (offline)
- Better sleep
- Increased productivity
- More creativity
- Reduced stress
9. Do Things the "Old Fashioned" Way
I always experience a simple satisfaction when I slow down to do something the “old-fashioned” way.
Take hanging freshly washed linens on a clothesline rather than using a dryer for instance. Sure, the dryer is a modern convenience that has made our lives easier and I am grateful for its place in my life, but the slow act of hanging clothes outside on sunny day give a much greater sense of accomplishment.
Some things you can do the “old-fashioned” way to help you slow down and enjoy the sense of accomplishment these things bring:
- learn to bake your own bread
- wash dishes by hand
- hang clothes on a clothesline
- learn to can & preserve your garden harvest
- learn to forage your own wild edible foods
- learn soapmaking or other traditional skills
10. Create Daily Rituals
Bring intention, awareness and engagement to a task by creating meaningful rituals as part of your slow living lifestyle.
A ritual (or ceremony) emphasizes careful attention to detail. When parts of our daily routines are approached as rituals, we bring a sense of meaning and significance to the task. We begin to enjoy the tasks more and start to see them as the simple pleasures of life.
One ritual I regularly partake of is an afternoon tea ritual. Start with your favorite mug or tea brewing set, preferably one that has meaning for you. Then, choose your tea (I love to use an herbal blend that I harvested myself). Keep it in a fancy container or special location. The most important thing is to perform your tea ritual mindfully and with intention and treat it as a sacred time.
11. Enjoy Slow Food
The slow food movement is actually where the slow living movement started. It has since become an international movement, which emphasizes the health and richness of locally grown, slowly prepared cuisine compared to unhealthy “fast food.” Here are the 4 basic tenets of slow eating:
With slow food, cooking and eating is something to be savored and enjoyed with family and friends. It’s an act, a celebration, not a chore or a means to an end.
Slow food is about growing and producing good foods in a kind and humane way that respects animals and nature. It’s about creating food that tastes good and has nutritional value. And it’s about taking time out for the things that bring happiness to our lives, like sharing meals with those we love.
The slow food philosophy is one we can all embrace:
- Buy fresh ingredients that are in season. They’re more flavorful and retain more of their nutrients than out-of-season foods.
- Shop at local markets for produce, meat, fish and seafood. When you buy from local producers, you support your local community by helping keep farms and fisheries open, but also help the environment by reducing the distance your food travels from farm to plate (and therefore the amount of energy required).
- Eat less meat overall — but when you do eat meat, make sure it’s high quality. Choose organic or free range meats from humanely raised animals that are fed natural diets.
12. Cut Out Distractions & Embrace Stillness
We’ve become so accustomed to noise and activity that when it disappears, we feel uneasy. We’re so used to being busy and productive that we sometimes believe being silent and still means we’re wasting our time. But if you can stop seeing stillness as a waste of time, then you can begin to understand yourself better and recognize what really matters in life.
Part of adopting a slow living lifestyle is intentionally embracing silent moments. You will no doublt over time, learn to love the quiet peace that comes from being still.
13. Be Conscious of Your Footprint
When you start to slow down, you become more aware of the negative impact of our fast-paced lifestyle on the planet. The two things go hand in hand.
For instance, when you’re rushing all of the time, it’s much harder to see the value of recycling over just throwing everything away in the trash. But when you slow down and start asking yourself why we have a disposable society in the first place, you start to question that type of behavior and lifestyle.
And it’s not just about recycling. When you realize that most people are spending their lives in a rush, trying to get somewhere they’re usually not all that excited to be going, it makes slowing down even more appealing.
Nature is our greatest teacher and healer. When we embrace slow living and slow down to a speed at which our senses are activated, we have the opportunity to connect with nature and begin to notice her beauty. This connection creates an awareness of the damage we do to nature and encourages us to live in harmony with her.
14. Cultivate Strong Relationships
One of the biggest lifestyle benefits of slow living is more time with friends and family. When you’re not constantly rushing off to another meeting or event, you can better commit to spending quality time with the people who matter most.
15. Embrace Quality over Quantity
I think we need to look for quality over quantity in all things. And yes, choosing a few good-quality pieces of clothing is preferable to owning a closet full of cheap junk. But what I’m really talking about are the immeasurable things in life. The things that actually matter. I’m talking about the quality of things such as relationships, community, and our connection to nature, to name but a few. Think about the quality of these things.
By adopting the idea of quality over quantity for everything in life, you will ultimately discover more. You’ll experience more peace, calm, time, presence, mindfulness, and more!
Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slowness: How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed sums up this idea perfectly when he says “I think of slow [living] as more of a mindset than anything else. It’s quality over quantity. It’s doing things with presence, being in the moment. Ultimately, it’s about doing everything as well as possible instead of as fast as possible.”
16. Be Grateful
When you embrace gratitude, you’re much less inclined to want more. While having goals and striving are great, remember that much of what we consider “more” comes with more stress and responsibility. Gratitude helps us be content with what we have.
When we slow down and take time to express gratitude, we are more present and aware of our emotions and surroundings. Practicing gratitude can help you feel happier, sleep better, reduce stress, and increase self-esteem. It can also help you build positive relationships and make you more resilient in the face of adversity.
The benefits of gratitude don’t stop there. Here are a few more reasons to practice it:
- It helps us refocus on what’s important in our lives.
- It reminds us that we have a lot to be thankful for, even during hard times.
- It helps us connect to something bigger than ourselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.
- It helps us identify all the ways we might take others for granted.
17. Practice Positivity
To practice slow living, you can start with your mind by ridding it of anxieties and stress perpetuated by negative thinking. Instead of focusing on the things that make you feel bad, you can try to retrain your brain to focus on positive thoughts instead. When you’re able to do this, you’ll realize that positive thinking isn’t just a catchy phrase — it has real power.
18. Set Intentions for Your Life
An intention is a way you want to live your life and the kind of energy you want to bring to the world. To start living more slowly and intentionally, visualize what you want your life to look like, and plan how to carry out this vision.
19. Listen to Your Body
If you are overworked, stressed out, and exhausted, you can’t be at your best in any other area of your life. You can’t show up fully for work or family if you’re depleted, and so every part of your life suffers as a result.
Start a self-care practice of listening to your body and responding to its needs. It’s a learned skill, only possible when we slow down enough to tune into our bodies. Prioritize self-care and you’ll show up better and brighter to every other part of your life —guaranteed! Choose anything that brings you peace and joy. It could be taking a walk in nature or reading a book in the bathtub (my favorite). It could be meditation or yoga or making art or writing poetry.
I recommend taking some time every day (yes, every day) to just sit and pay attention to what is going on inside you (lots of yoga teachers use the word “listen” instead of “pay attention” because it feels more appropriate). You don’t have to DO anything about what you feel — just notice and let it be.
Slow living gives us the opportunity to get to know ourselves more intimately, what serves us and what doesn’t.
20. Spend Slowly
Stop buying things you don’t need or want. Aside from things that are staples to live — food, rent, bills, etc. — you simply stop buying “stuff”. Intentionally slow down the pace of your spending so that you can save some money, break bad financial habits and get back in touch with your personal values around money and happiness.
Consider challenging yourself to a month of no spending. A No-Spend Challenge is not about deprivation. It’s about rethinking your spending habits and getting more intentional with your money. It’s about figuring out what you actually need vs. what you want. It’s also a great way to rethink consumerism in general. There is nothing more sustainable than not buying something you don’t need.
Interested in learning more about slow living and how to incorporate it into your lifestyle. Here are a few of my favorite books about this topic.
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