Slow living is not something I’ve ever been good at. I’ve always had things to do, places to be, and people to meet. It wasn’t that being really busy made me particularly happy, it was just how I thought life was supposed to be. And how it would always be.
When we moved to the island and I started the blog, though, one of my main goals was figuring out how to live more simply, be happier, and disconnect from how frantic life is at times. It’s a journey I’ve been on – at times more mindfully than others – for the last year.
Letting slow living into my life is something that has changed gradually. In many ways, it has been like watching a kid or a plant or a pet grow. When you’re with them all the time, you don’t notice how big they’ve gotten until you look back at a picture or previous memory. Then, all of a sudden, you realize how much they have changed.
That’s how it was with learning to slow down my life. It’s not that I’ve noticed a huge change from one day to the next, but rather when I look back on my life a year ago, I notice that relaxation and slow living was harder then.
The Difference a Year Has Made
For instance, I have a partially written blog post titled, “Why Being Too Busy is Bad.” I didn’t get very far into writing it, and for the life of me I can’t figure out where I was going with it. Now, it seems obvious to me that being constantly too busy could be a bad thing. A year ago, though, that was quite a novel concept.
I was also in a yoga class recently. At the beginning, the instructor led us through some relaxation breathing and reminded everyone to be present on their mat for the hour. Our responsibilities would be waiting for us at the end of class, but it doesn’t do any good to think about them or worry during the class.
I put aside my thoughts of what I would be having for dinner after yoga – which can be quite a task for someone who loves food like Pooh loves honey. In that moment of peace, I remembered trying to settle into yoga class last year.
A year ago, I was in the middle of my “quarter life crisis”. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or how I was going to figure it out. For once in my life, I wasn’t working or in school, and that lack of identity made me really uncomfortable. I had no idea what to do with myself during any free time, which I suddenly had a lot of.
Settling into yoga class then was an active struggle. Now, after a lot more practice and a year working on slow living, it is a whole lot easier.
The Benefits of Slow Living
Learning how to slow down my life has been incredibly rewarding. I no longer feel like I need to schedule something for every moment of every day. I have time to appreciate the little things, like a nice cup of tea in the morning.
It has also helped me to get my anxiety under control. Removing the extra tension caused by the fast and frantic nature of my life lowered my overall stress level. I still have anxiety, but I feel better equipped at managing it now.
It also makes island time much more enjoyable. If you’re in a rush, the extra time that it takes for things to get done on an island can easily make you frustrated. Whether it’s waiting for food in a restaurant or waiting behind a car that has stopped to chat with someone on the side of the road, I no longer feel tense when something takes longer than expected.
One of the things I appreciate the most is being able to relax. Free time used to be my nemesis. I could schedule it into a day, but I would never actually relax enough to enjoy it. Now, I appreciate a lazy Sunday morning with a good book or sitting outside and watching the sunset in the evening – without fixating on what I have to do next.
The Key to Slowing Down
I believe that slow living is more of an art than a science. There is no right or wrong way to go about it, just try things. Maybe going on walks helps you slow down. Maybe it’s playing an instrument, or drawing. Don’t be too rigid about it, though. If what you’re doing doesn’t make you happier, try something else.
It doesn’t have to be a drastic lifestyle change. Maybe you just decide to be more mindful and present in the moment for part of your day, like on your commute to work. Just remember that the key is time.
At first, your mind will wander. Take walking for example. At the beginning, you might spend the whole walk thinking about work, or the kids, or your to-do list. Over time, though, your mind will slow down. You will begin to notice the trees and the sky and the changing seasons.
Maybe that’s the first lesson in slow living. Coming to terms with the fact that it is going to take time and practice to get good at it. It will take work. As an anxious over-thinker myself, I know it’s not easy.
Then again, things that are worth it never are.