Slow Living creates a foundation for you to establish a lifestyle speed of your own.
“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” ― Anthony G. Oettinger
The sun sparkled on the horizon, the rush of the water slowed with the evening hue and the freshness of summer still lingered in the air. She ran with an eagerness but lack of energy, the longevity of the day slowing her every step.
It’s a simple paved trail along the river, a neat spot near the end of the dam where rocks stop the rushing water and seagulls, white pelicans, geese and a scattering of other birds gather. The river locks create a pathway for water so that the not more than 5-foot-wide trail runs between the two water flows.
Wild plants border the water’s edge. As you pass down the trail, the variation of leaves and plants blur into one: a simple spread of green.
But, when one pays attention, there’s flowers. Tiny, colorful wildflowers dotting the greenery along the water’s edge. This requires slowing down. Looking. Stopping.
On this particular day, she sought a slow down. A few minutes of peace and mindfulness, noticing her surroundings, engaging with simplicity – before the rush of the day swarmed back over her.
Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana. (Thanks, Anthony.)
Time flies fast, piercing the sky with a rush and no sign of turning back. Fruit flies like a banana, cursively swerve through time towards the fruits of its life.
So, what about the fruits of ours?
Give Yourself Permission to Slow Down
I’m not one to openly believe we all fit neatly into little boxes generically like the person next to us. We have our uniqueness to us …
That said, I want to introduce a concept called “Slow Living,” to you. You may have heard about it before and have an idea what it means – but, let me suggest that there is not one definition and not on single way to live it. There is no generic box …
Instead, there are a number of variations or theories on “Slow Living,” and if you’d rather not live in a box you can call it something else altogether. Either way, examining the concept and some of its theories is a great way to start thinking about how we all can live the life that let’s us stop and enjoy the wildflowers … or whatever else fruits you don’t want to miss.
So if a swervy fruit fly sounds like your style, then consider these 5 concepts that allow you to live more slowly and enjoy the tiny bites while they last.
First, Defining Slow Living.
Skimming definitions found throughout various internet resources (listed at the end of this section) a definition of slow living generally include some elements of living with more intent or ability to be in the moment with a preference for purpose-led or meaningful existence. Sometimes, it goes as far as adding in elements of homemade and more “green” lifestyles, while other times it’s simply about being more mindful.
According to Wikipedia:
“Slow living is a lifestyle emphasizing slower approaches to aspects of everyday life. The concept of ‘slow’ lifestyles started with the slow food movement, which emphasizes more ‘traditional‘ food production processes as a reaction to fast food emerged in Italy during the 1980s and 1990s. Slow food and slow living are frequently, but not always, proposed as solutions to what the green movement describes as problems in materialistic and industrial lifestyles.”
Wikipedia also uses SLOW as an acronym to stand for: Sustainable / Local / Organic / Whole.
Links for Definitions of Slow Living
- 7 Days of Slow Living by Pick Up Limes (video)
- How to live more intentional by Cheslea Dinen
- 6 Easy Steps toward slow living by Art&Homesteading
- Slow living 101
- 15 Slow Living Tips by The Rustic Elk
- Slow Living 101 on Entrepreneur.com
- Slow Living is Healthy on Huffpost.com
Concept 1: Prioritize Relationships
“No thing to be done is more important than a person to be loved.”
— From 6 easy Steps Toward Slow Living by Art and Homesteading
We sometimes forget about nurturing bonds that exist close to us because we take loved ones for granted. Instead, we feel propelled to prioritize carrying on daily demands such as household maintenance, obligations to others (when maybe we should have said, “No”) and so forth.
Yet, quality relationships are so powerful for our wellbeing.
Here’s just a few specks of proof:
- A study by Bringham Young University in Utah suggests that lack of social relationships caused the same physical damage as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. (Digitaljournal.com)
- Missing out on strong social bonds is associated with depression, cognitive decline in later years and increased mortality rates; a study of 309,000 showed premature death increased by 50% when strong relationships were lacking. (Health.Harvard.edu)
- Lack of strong relationships has been linked with increased rate of developing disease, “including development and progression of cardiovascular disease, recurrent myocardial infarction, atherosclerosis, autonomic dysregulation, high blood pressure, cancer and delayed cancer recovery, and slower wound (National Institutes of Health)
Ok, but this doesn’t have to be difficult to achieve. The tiny baby steps we can take to notice and acknowledge the importance of our relationships will develop the bond and give us positive side effects.
So, here’s 3 things you can do today to slow down in your relationships:
- Talk over a meal. Turn off everything, and if silence isn’t your thing maybe opt for instrumental dinner music for some relaxing “noise.” Go beyond “How was your day,” and if you’d like help with that try out some fun yet simple dinner conversation prompt questions. Here’s a list from SixSistersStuff.com, print these and cut the strips to pick a new one at random every night. Or, just google “Dinner conversation prompts” for more options.
- Hug. Hugs have a positive physical impact on us, from boosting our immune systems and heart health to simply making us feel happy (Healthline.com). Welcome each other home with a heartfelt hug, say goodnight with a hug, or add a hug before a meal. Wherever it fits, just be sure to share the love.
- Give thanks. When we all live under the same roof, we help each other out with various things. Whether this is handing someone a needed item, cleaning up after a mess, making a meal and so forth. Take a moment to say, “Thank You” when someone has made even a tiny difference in your day.
Concept 2: Self-Care Matters
“Self-care is how you take your power back.” – Lalah Delia
Whether it’s allowing yourself time to: cozy up with a good book; meal plan + cook healthier food options; head to the spa; meet up with friends; exercise; or more — it’s important we refuel in the ways we need in order to be our best selves in our other roles.
If you can’t be convinced for yourself, do it for the others (you know, those from concept 1). Self-care is critical in how we are able to support others, and here’s some proof:
- When it comes to maintaining solid relationships, it’s important for all parties to have a solid grip on their own mental health. Problems from depression, anxiety, insecurity or low self-esteem will negatively impact your relationship.s (TheNationsHealth.com / American Public Health Association)
- Choosing to exercise is a great option to stay mentally sharp. Research has shown exercise helps people control their emotions during difficult situations. (National Institutes of Health)
- Being nice to yourself grows your capacity to achieve your goals. Research has found that people who were very self-critical during their weight loss journey had less success, while a control group engaged in self-compassion practices lost more weight. (PsychologyToday.com)
Here’s 3 things you can do today to take care of yourself:
- Try out a mindful minute. That story of the runner at the beginning of this piece? That was me. In the middle of that run, I set a timer on my phone, sat on a bench between the water and just listened for a minute. If any thoughts of something else came to me, I asked it to step aside while I listened deeper for the noises of nature. And it was completely relaxing and restoring – and it can be done anywhere. If you don’t want to listen, try it out with visuals or things you can feel.
- Choose a physical activity you can do today. Depending on the time of year and where you live, consider the outdoor activities you can participate in. Something as simple as a walk around the block is even a great way to start, but if you want more adventure then challenge yourself to something simpler. Involve your family or friends if that’s more fun to you, or give yourself permission to do this solo.
- Compliment yourself. Notice your strengths, notice your beauty, notice when make decisions that make you happy – and thank yourself, for yourself. It’s a great way to reinforce the feel-good from doing something.
Need more ideas? Check out these 12 easy ways to take care of yourself from Psychology Today.
Concept 3: Your Food Matters
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” — J.R.R. Tolkien
My husband is always the last one eating. Often, the table is being cleared and extra servings put away before he’s done with this plate. He’s not overweight, at all. He takes his time with his food, he enjoys the flavors, he savors the moment. Following this trend doesn’t come naturally to me, but I can notice the difference it makes in my day and that of my family’s when we take a little extra time to pay attention to what we eat.
Here’s some research on food matters:
- Chewing food too quickly can cause you to put on weight and lead to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, according to research. (Sciencealert.com)
- We’ll speak to the concept of time in a bit, but food overlaps with that here. A perceived lack of time is seen as a common reason to default to fast and convenient food choices over more healthful options. (US National Library of Medicine)
- Enjoying meals together can fuel the bonds that are so important to our health, according to research, so this one has a double whammy. (Fatherly.com)
Here’s 3 ways you can make your food matter today:
- Plan your meals ahead. Planning apps, such as plantoeat.com, can simplify the planning and shopping process. Take 10 minutes to decide on meals for the next week. I generally use a rule of planning 4 meals, as our family relies on leftovers or some quick, healthier options such as whole wheat noodles with garden spaghetti sauce from our garden the year before.
- Make it pretty. If you can, incorporate a variety of colors in the foods you choose – this is also associated with a more healthful meal as it generally means you’ve incorporated more variety of fruits and vegetables. But if you’re still working on that whole meal planning thing, this can also mean to think about the way you serve it. Plate your food as if it were served at a restaurant. Sit down to a table dressed in style. Do it just once, I bet you’ll notice the generous and incredible feelings of joy it creates, and you’ll be hooked.
- Sit down together. It is easy to default to living room table trays, eating on the go or at separate times because of schedules. Don’t let that force you into always eating without your family. Pick one meal a day you can eat together, and do it. Make it a priority.
Concept 4: Give where it matters
“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.” — Mandy Hale
Creating good in the world can be something small that helps one person, or something big that helps hundreds. It doesn’t matter – it has a positive impact. While Slow Living doesn’t seem to talk about charity across the board, I included giving in this discussion because it’s certainly relevant when we think about fusing more purpose and meaning.
Here’s some science about how it will impact you:
- Simply caring for others, offering advice or expressing affection qualify as a type of social support proven to have a positive impact on our health. For example, it can relieve harmful levels of stress which would otherwise contribute to poor heart health, gut problems, a lowered immune system and more. (Health.Harvard.edu)
- Offering social support also improves our level of happiness and self esteem while reducing damaging feelings of loneliness. The study showed a positive impact for people randomly assigned to caring for plants, giving money to others or giving massages to infants. It’s important, however, to maintain boundaries and remember self-care because too many demands becomes burdensome – removing these positive side effects. (The Effects of Giving on Givers)
- There’s a cyclical loop researchers have discovered: Happier people give more and giving makes people happier. Perhaps starting this in your life could become a healthy addiction. (Harvard Business School)
Here are 3 things you can do to give a little today:
- Pay for someone’s coffee. Or food order, car wash, etc. I once pulled up to a Starbucks window to have the cashier tell me the person in front of me had paid for my order. Just because. It was such a fun feeling to receive that random gift, and something we can all easily give to the stranger in line behind us anywhere.
- Pick a flower. This one can be free and simply! We love to showcase flowers on a regular basis in our home. It makes you feel a sense of worth, to receive flowers as a gift or notice the beautiful life on your table. Add a little color to someone’s life and get the added benefit of giving, too.
- Research volunteering options. The first step to giving back in a unique way is finding the opportunities that excite you. Many counties have volunteer management program, or simply conduct a search for nonprofits near you to learn about causes you can give manpower too, even if its only a one-time opportunity.
Concept 5: Find Purpose
“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined enough to live for something.” — Winston S. Churchill
When we agree that one of the foundational steps in Slow Living is including more intent or meaning, it is important to be grounded in purpose. Take time to understand and know what you want, so you can focus on that in your regular routine and drive in that direction intentionally. Explore yourself and enjoy the awareness of your authenticity that comes with it.
Here’s just some science on how purpose is important to us:
- As we age, purpose becomes a positive driver for longevity. In a review of 10 studies involving 136,000 people average age 67, the risk of death was about 20% lower when people reported feeling a strong sense of purpose. (Health.Harvard.edu)
- It creates a cycle of positivity in your life. A study that followed people over four years found that the more purposeful they considered their lives, the more positive changes they experienced.(PsychologyToday.com)
- You get better rest. A study correlated higher purpose in life with a better night’s sleep, with a lower likelihood to experience sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and more likely to have a higher quality sleep overall. (Forbes.com)
Here are 3 things you can do today to drive toward purpose:
- Read to find your interests. Whether diving into fictional stories or studying up in nonfiction texts, personal growth books and so forth, we uncover ideas that can inspire our future.
- Make time for hobbies. Participating in hobbies allows you to experience something you enjoy and/or learn about new interests that might bring more purpose. While you explore the hobby, you may feel inspired to more purposeful activities along the way.
- Create a purpose statement. Asking yourself personal questions about your past, your interests, preferences, habits and desires help you to uncover more about how you want to experience every day. I call this your Soul Mission, and have a simplified worksheet to help you create this 4-sentence tool (Grab it free here).
The Challenge: Enjoy Your Time
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. — Tim Kreider
Often when someone asks us, “How’ve you been?” a default answer becomes, “busy.” Why? Research shows busyness is seen as a status symbol, with that term defined as “long hours of work and lack of leisure time.” (SemanticsScholar.org)
But, what if you give yourself permission to ignore that status symbol? What would you spend your time doing if it didn’t what others think? Ultimately, if you ask me, the slow living lifestyle is more about spending time in the space where, for you, time slows to a still and you are really in the moment – because that’s what you’re here to do.
Don’t be an arrow, be a swervy fruit fly.
Looking for more inspiration about being a fruit fly? Join our circle of regular readers and we’ll send you a bonus worksheet with a compelling questionnaire to jumpstart your self-awareness, provide purpose and make it easier to enjoy Slow Living.