Posts tagged Slow Living
A Slow Living Guide to Setting Goals

At the start of a new year, resolutions are flying around all over the place, decorations are shed, and it's back to reality. For most, that means a much busier lifestyle, with more complications and demands on our time, so it seems quite apt today to be focusing on living a slower, simpler existence, and how setting goals with this in mind can help to ease the transition.

The crux of slow living lies in knowing what you want and what’s important to you. How do we know what we’re slowing down for if we haven’t decided what’s important?

So let’s get started.

First, list the 3 most important things that you want to prioritise in your life. These should be things that you might not feel you have time for, or that have fallen by the wayside as your life has slowly got more and more chaotic. Why 3? It’s both achievable and allows us to push the boundaries of what we really want. Try to limit it to 3, and if you’ve got more ideas you can follow the same process later once you’ve worked through the steps to prioritise them in your life.

You’ve now got a basic grounding, but in order to set goals we need to transform these priorities into something more specific. For example, instead of just writing “family,” change it to “visit my parents at least once a week.” We’re using the idea of SMART targets here – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.

Obviously you’re not going to be able to fit anything new in during the times you currently have to spend at work, in appointments etc. So you’ll need to figure out when your best day / time of the day is in order to squeeze in your goals. Somethings that can mean getting up a little earlier, or cutting out that extra hour spent browsing social media, but prioritising your important things means living a happier and more fulfilling life.

Here's the important bit...

Once you’ve scheduled them in, try including them one at a time. The problem with resolutions is that we're expected to include all of them immediately, and no one has the time or mind-space for that.  You might succeed for the first week, or even the second, but then something will slip and the first thing you’ll lose and forget about is what you’ve most recently implemented. Try one goal at a time (and ideally focus on this one goal for a whole month) and you’ll be developing a ritual rather than just a standing entry in your diary or planner.

There's been a lot written on this blog about slow living, so if you're feeling inspired, here's a few more ideas to get you started on your slow living journey:

A Slow Approach to the Online World

Do you spend hours scrolling through social media or newly-discovered websites? Do you close down your laptop screen and realise you have no idea what you've been reading or what new information you have actually taken in? 

Recently I've been thinking over how much time I spend in the online world: browsing the internet, posting on this blog and on social media. While living for the moment and alongside nature is of great importance to me, I also thrive on educating and inspiring others, and one of the best places to do this is online. Blogging and running an online business has opened so many doors for me, and has pushed me to live the lifestyle I desire, encouraging and guiding me along with my double-stacked bookshelves of hardbacks and novels at home. It's something that I was never really sure I would keep up with, but which now takes up much of my spare time in the evenings and at weekends, and as such the amount of time I spend in the online world seems to be increasing.

My slow approach to life, though, doesn't always go hand-in-hand with this use of technology, and I find it a useful exercise to remind myself of my online priorities to ensure I don't get carried away and lose sight of what I really come online to achieve.

As such, I don't post regularly on all social media sites. I have no idea what Periscope is, or what Google+ is for. I pin, but not regularly, and am not the sort of person to post every single moment of my life on Instagram. I tweet, post photographs of beautiful flowers and try to connect as much as possible with people rather than focus too heavily on building a following. Of course, having a certain amount of followers is beneficial when you want to reach out to people with a new offering, but really I'd rather have 10 people who loved what I was writing about, 10 people who took the time to engage with the content and maybe even send an email over to thank me, than 1000 people who click on it once and don't even bother to skim read what's there.

For me the best part of blogging is getting that email or that comment that shows I've really reached out to someone, or I've inspired them to live the life they desire, rather than the one society dictates they should follow. It's difficult sometimes to set an aim for what we do, but if I were to do such a thing for Creative Countryside, my aim would be to inspire, guide and encourage you to forget what everyone else is doing online and focus on life's simple pleasures, making time for what you love instead of getting caught in the whirlwind of modern life. If something new comes along, don't be afraid to say - no thanks, not this time. 

You might be reading this post thinking that yes, actually, you probably do spend longer than you'd like online without ever really achieving anything. If this sounds like you, then you might like to try out these tips for approaching the online world a little more slowly:

  1. Restrict yourself to just 3 social media sites that you post on regularly. I have Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and keeping up with these 3 can sometimes be an uphill struggle; coping with any more is just a waste of my time.
  2. Decide on when you want to be online and set aside a certain amount of time to spend - have a limit and make sure you stick to it (I find an hour is sufficient for any kind of social media / blog reading).
  3. If you can do it offline, make the switch. If I can give someone a call rather than messaging them online then I will do. If I can draft a post by hand rather than typing frantically straight into the new post window then I will do. Connect with the real world whenever possible.
  4. If you're experiencing online overload and feel fatigued with the amount of time you've spent browsing then escape outdoors as soon as possible. Go for a walk and leave your phone at home; forget about the fact you haven't commented on that post you wanted to, or the fact you've forgotten to tweet about your new course - just leave those stresses behind and when you come back you'll be refreshed and ready to start again.
  5. Make the time you do spend online valuable: remember to connect with people rather than a faceless follower. Focus on building relationships rather than a following and the rest will come naturally (one of the most important things I've realised this past year!).

So don't ever expect to see me much over on social media, and you won't find me posting on here every day, but I hope that when I do post or connect about anything that there's a meaning behind it.

Slow Food: The Importance of Celebration

It can be so easy to hurtle through and consume at speed in order to make time for doing other stuff, but what if in doing so you're missing out on one of life's great but simple pleasures that costs little and can be enjoyed every day? 

In this post I'll take you through 5 simple steps that you can introduce to your mealtimes today.

Often it's the most basic of activities - like an evening meal - that can be overlooked.  It's time to start prioritising the everyday as a celebration too. Here’s how to get started – before eating your evening meal tonight, just take a moment to look at what’s on your plate. It’s not about making yourself feel guilty for all the advantages that most of us experience, but rather it’s a reminder that no matter what has gone wrong that day, no matter what stresses may lie in store for tomorrow, right now you are privileged enough to have a plate of food in front of you. 

We don’t say grace in our house, but this is our own personal way of counting our blessings. Perhaps you’d like to say something? Giving thanks is a good place to start; leave it there if you like, or add a more personal touch if you’d prefer. It’s fantastic to try if you have children as it instills gratitude at an early age, forming it into a habit rather than a chore.

Now you’ve altered your initial approach to a plate full of food, it’s time to turn that everyday meal into a celebration. Here are 5 ways you can achieve this:

  1. Turn off all electronic devices (mobiles, laptops, TV etc.) and really focus on the moment. If you don’t like silence then a little music will add to the atmosphere, but nothing more.

  2. Light some candles. It takes only the striking of a match, but immediately lends a romantic, peaceful feel to the dinner table.

  3. Set the table (with whatever you like). Use a tablecloth, get out the place mats or fold napkins into pretty designs – all of these are such simple acts, but can really make a meal feel like something special.

  4. Gather the troops. Of course if you live alone this isn’t always an option, but if you live with your family, partner or friends, then eating together is a sure-fire way to really connect after a long day. Many choose to eat separately for ease, but in order to appreciate slow food you won’t want anyone thundering up the stairs or watching TV in the other room.

  5. Sit and enjoy a drink for a minute or two first. Again you’re only elongating the whole process by a short stretch of time, but it will give you chance to pause and take stock of any chaos left behind from your day before continuing with your meal.

Tonight aim to do just one of these things, and over the next week try them all out before selecting one night when you’ll try out all 5. I certainly noticed a difference when first following these steps, and it turned our mealtimes into something to treasure rather than rush through at speed.

Essential Tools for Slow Living

While living a slow lifestyle is usually associated with a lack of ‘things’ it is perhaps inevitable in our modern society that certain tools will be required for any way of life. For me, it’s all about choosing the right tools so that I’m not left with things I don’t need or really want.

This decision making process didn’t happen overnight, and even today I can still be tempted when I see new and exciting products on the market that profess to cure all sorts of ailments or solve your problems. A few years ago, temptation proved too difficult to withstand and after university I ended up carting to my new home an exercise bike, bread maker and electronic keyboard, with plans for a new car, laptop and more exercise equipment. I thought that choosing these ‘things’ would help me to achieve a way of life that I thought I desired: a life where I’d cycle for an hour a day (in my living room) and use gadgets to avoid spending any length of time in the kitchen. And for what? Solitary indoor exercise made me miserable, gadgets were expensive space fillers and I’d spent far too much money on things I thought were what I needed. Sound familiar?

My ‘everything-clicked’ moment of realisation that this wasn’t what I wanted at all was when we were preparing to move house. I looked at the piles of ‘things’ ready to be shipped to our new home and didn’t feel connected to any of it. In my quest to fit in with what everyone else was doing I’d lost any concept of what I loved and what made me unique. I think sometimes it can be a scary and intimidating process to admit that what you want to do with your life, and how you want to live your life, is so very different to those people around you. I didn’t want any of what they had, but I didn’t know how to escape it.

Aptly, I started slowly and gradually reduced my reliance and acceptance of the way things were. I ditched the gadgets and got rid of anything that I didn’t love and that didn’t make me happy. Although initially daunting, it became a liberating process. Don’t be misled into thinking that I fully embraced the maxims of minimalism: there was no way I’d ever get rid of my piles of books, but that was the whole point – instead of finding no time to read the books (the things that actually did make me happy) I’d created a new lifestyle in which books took centre stage and I had prioritised the ‘tools’ that I found both useful and joyful.

Without further ado, then, here are my essential tools for slow living:

  1. A calendar and weekly planner. “What?” I hear you cry, “isn’t this supposed to be slow living, you know, without complications and extra work?” You’re right, it is, but the crux of living more slowly is using your time efficiently. Time isn’t endless, and we will always desire more of it, so making sure to prioritise and schedule in time for doing what you love is essential. My job could take up twelve hours a day if I let it, so using a planner to ensure this doesn’t happen is a vital part of being able to live life in this way.
  2. Preserving jars and freezer containers. You don't have to turn into Delia Smith overnight to reap the rewards of eating with the seasons and thinking ahead to prolong the enjoyment of certain foods. Since slowing my life down I've made jams, jellies, chutnies and cordials, despite having no prior experience, and aiming to have a fully-stocked larder (ideally with homemade produce) makes it so much easier to enjoy the process of cooking and eating food. Making huge batches of midweek favourites is also a good idea; spend an afternoon over a hot stove and you'll be able to fill your freezer for those days when cooking is the last thing on your mind.
  3. Inspiring books and magazines. There are days when I feel like everything is slipping. A lost list here, a panic over plans there and slow living can fly out of the window. Whilst I aspire to live slowly, seasonally and positively, there are inevitably moments when things start to crumble and it can be hard to pick yourself up. It's on those days that I find picking up an inspiring book or magazine can do wonders for my soul.
  4. Outdoor space (even if it’s just a windowsill) and a few pots. Slow living is all about taking the time to appreciate the natural world and all it has to offer, but that doesn't mean you have to live in the countryside. When I first started living more slowly my home was a tiny flat with no outside space whatsoever. But I still grew my own herbs (on the windowsill) and picked wildflowers for my bedside table. If you've got a tiny balcony or patio there's plenty of space for a few pots, and over the summer months a few seeds and the odd splash water will ensure you are self-sufficient in salad leaves. 

Of course, there are many more tools that you could use on your path to living more slowly. We now own a polytunnel, for example, and I have vases and wreath bases and so on to allow me to bring nature into the home. Your creative outlet might require specific materials and products, or maybe owning a journal is an essential part of your routine. But if you don't have these 4 things, I've found from past experience that slow living can get a little caught up in everyday life and become impossible.

An Introduction to Slow Living

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.