You've probably heard of simple living, of conscious living and of mindful living, but what remains less well known is the concept of slow living. Shifting the focus from quantity and speed to quality of life remains at its core, and its effects have been transformative for me.
I recently reached a point in my life where my to-do list was never-ending and I prioritised by simply choosing the most pressing deadline and ploughing through. At the end of the day I would collapse into a heap on the sofa and waste a few hours trying to regain some semblance of a life. I'd wake feeling fatigued and irritable and would haul myself upstairs to bed before starting all over again; no matter how many good intentions I'd have to escape from my stupor and actually do something, things never seemed to work that way.
When I first discovered the concept of slow living I disregarded the idea, believing naïvely that there was no hope for me to ever live this way because I simply had too much to do, too much to fit in, and there just wasn't enough time in the day to slow anything down. What I didn't know, is that this is the kind of lifestyle primed for a change to slow living.
What is slow living?
It's a process of reconnection: with the world around you, with the seasons, but most of all with the things you love to do, that somehow get so easily lost in the chaos of modern life. Slow living embraces a simple lifestyle full of homecooked meals, traditional celebrations and rituals and time spent wisely. There will never be enough hours in the day, but we can shape and mould the time we have according to our wishes and desires, and once we can do that, we're able to live more slowly, mindfully and with care.
We are a product of our environment, but for many of us that environment is fast evolving into a focus on the man-made, speed-focused and chaotic, and we start to feel misaligned. Don’t be misled into thinking this means you have to ditch technology and the modern world for good - slow living is more about streamlining your reliance and bringing things back to basics in order to simplify and slow down your daily life.
Society dictates that we move at speed: speed typing, fast food, speed dating, fast results… it seems like everything is seen as better if we can achieve it in a short space of time. For some things, I’m sure, that’s accurate. No one wants a slow blood test or a slow job interview. But what about everything else?
What about slow food? We eat without thought, consuming food not meals, and don't take the time to enjoy what's on our plates and really taste what we're eating. This comes somewhat from our over-reliance on supermarkets, ready meals and takeaways, and while there's nothing wrong with these every once in a while, cooking and enjoying something you've cooked from scratched turns a humble dinner into a celebration. And why not celebrate every day? Why do limit ourselves to 'special' occasions?
The path and process to slow down your life isn't an immediate one (it's called slow for a reason). You're not going to wake up tomorrow and realise that suddenly every chaotic thing in your life has disappeared, because it doesn’t work like that. But you can introduce manageable and positive changes that will make a difference.
My approach to slow living is a little different to the norm in that it begins (a pre-process, if you like) with organisation. I've found that cementing routines and plans in place to be essential in beginning to live a slow life that actually has a lot going on. Running a home, working 9-5, seeing family and friends, running Creative Countryside - it doesn't sound like I'm living a slow life! But I am.
Every day I take time to connect with the natural world. I'm able to enjoy the process of cooking and eating rather than rush through it with a panicked notion of running out of time. Sometimes I'll even take the day off. All of this is only possible, though, because I did the work beforehand: I set up meal planning spreadsheets, streamlined my wardrobe and set goals that allowed me to focus on exactly what I wanted to achieve. Following this process took a little while, but good things come to those who wait, and once I'd got to the point where everything was set up and I'd designed my lifestyle to look how I wanted it to look, I could truly say I had embraced slow living.
Eleanor is obsessed with stories. She writes for a number of online spaces including This is Your Kingdom, edits Creative Countryside, curates #aseasonalyear and teaches at Chalk House. In addition, she is currently studying for an MA in Creative Non-Fiction Writing. You'll find her roving the fields of the Lincolnshire Wolds or planning her next rural adventure.