Una foto del mare per vivere lentamente e serenamente.
Sustainable life

What slow living has taught me so far

I don’t have time is the mantra that accompanies most of us earthlings in this 21st century. Being perpetually busy, always on the ball, up to date with anything, living on coffee alone, and experiencing burnout and tachycardia all appeal to the average member of a society where “Time is money, okay loser?”.

“Not having enough time” is a status symbol just like an Apple Watch, nothing more nothing less. However, this occurs at the expense of the genuineness of time itself. And it’s okay that we’re all different and have different perspectives. Yet, I bet even the most time-obsessed people have to deal with that 1% of their cells suffering from the stress caused by the capitalistic euphoria screaming “nowimmediatelyfastreadysetgootherwiseyourealoser” (you can feel the anxiety of reading this whole package of syllables, right? Yes, indeed).

That’s why I’ve preferred turning towards the more pacific shores of slow living.

What is slow living?

First things first: slow living doesn’t mean waking up at 10 AM every day or swinging on a hammock an entire afternoon.

If you can do it, then good for you. If you can’t, keep calm, because this isn’t the point.

Slow living is a lifestyle that focuses on quality over quantity, on the ability to live in the moment rather than in the anxious whirlwind we’re used to.

Our lives slip away while we’re busily doingdoingdoing or catching up on doing what the doingdoingdoing doesn’t allow us to do.

We screw our health in the name of a shredded life and we’re happy to be roasted on the burnout grill.

It’s not by chance that slow living developed from a health trend: it stems from the Italian Slow Food movement, which emerged to counteract the rapid spread of fast food across the Italian territory in the late 80s.

Since then it’s evolved, and today it includes patterns from environmental sustainability, minimalism and all those approaches that counterbalance capitalism and hyperconsumerism.

Four things slow living has taught me 

Slow living is not a doctrine you adhere to, nor a newsletter you subscribe to.

There are no rules, not even a list of commandments you must follow.

The key is to rediscover the most genuine time and melt all the mental fluff our society made us learn by heart. And everyone has their own way to do that.

In particular, this approach has taught me a lot in relation to four areas of my life: personal growth, time, quality over quantity and acceptance.

Changing and improving myself

Working on ourselves and our personal growth is the starting point of any change. We can’t improve our life if first we aren’t ready to put ourselves into question and change those toxic aspects of our personality that hurt the change we aspire to.

This is a fundamental step: we’re indeed too sensitive to criticism. Putting ourselves into question? Admitting we’re wrong and we need to change? It’s hard, too hard. “Let the others do the change. Actually, it’s up to the others. Not my fault.” This is how it usually works: we externalise our responsibility.

This is never gonna improve anything, though.

This is the point: personal growth might not even be the main principle of slow living. Nevertheless, it’s implied in it, as we can’t slow down and change our toxic habits if we aren’t capable of putting ourselves into question first.

In this regard, we’re not asked to bite off more than we can chew: it’s a gradual process that lasts our whole life. And if we can’t do it properly, we can always ask mental health experts or personal growth coaches for help.

Respect my own pace

This is difficult to swallow, but once digested, it’s pure normality: everyone moves at their own pace. This doesn’t mean that you may easily decide to cross the street when the traffic light is red because you were distracted by your phone when the light was green. On the contrary, you need to act on a level of personal fulfilment.

We all grow up impatiently looking at the deadlines society has pinned on our calendar and think that if we don’t achieve that milestone by age X, then we’re a complete failure.

And yet, and yet: some people find their calling at age 6, others at 50. Some people start learning Chinese at 83 because they just like it (I’ve met them!), while others are okay with the way they are at 25 and are gonna be the same for the rest of their life.

Respecting our own pace is fundamental. However, this awareness isn’t as rooted as it should and we often end up taking the long, sometimes painful way to eventually feel it.

This is why I’d like to contribute to its normalisation, perhaps someone will avoid that long stinky way.

One conscious day at a time

You know, you eat while watching the news or scrolling through your phone. You talk to your mother on the phone while scrolling through your social media profile, losing pieces of conversation. Or maybe you start a project and before wrapping it up, you decide to start another project, and so on.

Our life is full of such examples: be it boredom, bad habits or apathy. And it’s okay if there occurs an unforeseen event and you end up piling up dozens of activities in only two hours. But if one exception becomes the rule, then I think it’s time for a reset.

The point is that we’ve been taught multitasking is cool. In so doing, we collect activities and actions to fill up every second of our life, normalising that suffocating feeling that usually goes together with “too much”.

Besides, we act this way without seriously realising it, because our mind is somewhere else. 

One thing I’ve been focusing on – which for a person who’s grown up dealing with multitasking and anxiety is particularly difficult – is doing one thing at a time. Taking one step at a time. One day at a time. Be it my routine or future plans or whatever.

For an anxious person, it’s normal to pile up thoughts and activities. Since I’ve started working on myself (see the “personal growth” paragraph), I’ve managed to slow down several dimensions of my life, multitasking included.

Sometimes, I still begin to work on something and immediately think about the next project. Luckily, I’ve developed a sort of internal alarm that brings me back to the present moment. It’s like a muscle – the more I train it, the better it works.

If I’m grocery shopping, I am grocery shopping. If I’m talking to X, then I am talking to X. I try to be there, living that present moment which actually is constantly going past me. I really want to avoid those melodramatic realisations when one melancholically sighs “I wish I had relished those moments…”.

Accepting silence

Sometimes, messing up our everyday life with the unregulated traffic of projects, events and activities carried out rapidly without any kind of consciousness is caused by our ancient fear of silence and emptiness.

Being alone? In complete silence in front of, I don’t know, a cup of tea? What about being on your own on the seashore, watching as the sun goes down? Are you joking? I couldn’t do that. My mind would trick me with some bad memory or feeling (indeed, see why the first point is so important?).

Slow living also means opening up to the silence and the emptiness it may carry along. It means accepting them for what they are.

Taking a pause allows us to connect to ourselves and the environment around us, as long as we’re ready to do it, to reflect and to deconstruct ourselves. And there is nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, stubbornly rejecting silence and inactivity while cramming up our life with fluff should set off one or two alarm bells.

In conclusion, slow living can be regarded as an umbrella term including all the different ways through which we can slow down and live more consciously, at our own pace, focusing on quality over quantity. An approach that can be applied to any other area in our life. 

We don’t need to immediately address everything at once. We need one day at a time, again. And it’s okay if we first need help, should the process be particularly difficult. The taste you’ll experience for the new genuineness and quality of your life will be worth it.

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