‘The philosophy of slowing down is not to do everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about trying to do everything at the right pace. Enjoy the hours and minutes instead of counting them. Do everything as well as possible instead of as quickly as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from working to eating to raising children.’ – Carl Honoré
The slowdown movement has much in common with two other trends that are doing well: ‘taking a step back and ‘living simply’‘. Although it had undoubtedly been going on for much longer, it was first widely discussed in the 1990s, in response to the growing number of people seeking a way out of the ‘rat race, and the compulsive pursuit of material gain. working too hard and the stress associated with it.
Slowing down is looking for a better balance between leisure and work, no longer considering everything in terms of economic success, but instead focusing your life on finding personal meaning and building fulfilling relationships. It is mainly about letting go of the cultural conviction that bigger or more is better.
How can you live simpler?
Living a simple life is usually quite a radical choice and includes a wide variety of options to simplify your lifestyle. First, you could get rid of all the unnecessary clutter, make yourself less dependent on technology and become more self-sufficient by growing some of your own food or using alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power. If we take a step back and live more simply, we use fewer resources. Both our own and the planets.
But most of all, living a simple life is all about taking less pressure on this earth. And taking less of a load on the Earth may be the only way we as a species can survive the current environmental crisis.
A wish for more connection
All these possibilities to live differently have a number of things in common: a desire for more connection, with ourselves and our natural life rhythms and cycles, with others in the community in which we live, and with nature around us; a belief in the value of more conscious life, more in the now; and a pursuit of fulfillment and meaning, rather than the acquisition of wealth or goods.
The biggest obstacle to living in a more connected way is that we are just too busy. A friend’s daughter, who lives and works in central London, told me that people her age (she’s about thirty) are increasingly planning their weekend activities, just like the days they work. They ‘register themselves for an activity, as if it were a real appointment.
There is no more spontaneity in it, she lamented. If you have a date with a friend for a cup of coffee, she’s constantly checking her watch to see if it’s time, because she has to go to the museum or the gym. These days, you can also easily access your calendar and other scheduling software via your cell phone, she said. It seems like an encouragement to fill in all available holes, which makes everyone curiously frightened when he or she sees an empty hole on the screen.
The big advantage of taking it easy
However, research has shown that allowing yourself to slow down can be of great benefit. For example, in 2012, psychologist Benjamin Baird and his colleagues at the University of California reported that we have our most creative moments when we combine periods of intense focus with periods of daydreaming, calming our minds and allowing our minds to wander.
Unfortunately, few of us are used to doing nothing, so the art of doing nothing is slowly being lost. At work, we have to focus really hard on what we’re doing; in the time that should be lost time, we eagerly throw ourselves at our screens and gadgets as a result of an exaggerated sense of social connection.
All of these activities keep us trapped in our superficial consciousness, and from dealing with the deeper dimensions of our lives. They keep us from asking ourselves the important questions of who we are, who we want to become, and what kind of world we really want to live in. And they prevent us from listening to our bodies and being fully involved in the world around us.
Why priority lists are counterproductive
However, sometimes slowing down can be harder than it seems, because making a list of priorities is easy. However, it just becomes one of the many things that we are busy doing, that we continue to be guilty of. The only way to bring about profound and meaningful change is through a fundamental change in the way we approach our lives and the world around us. What is needed is an in-depth assessment of what we really value in our lives, what we are willing to change, and what not.
Start a slower, simpler life in 3 steps
- Think about how you might be caught in the cultural trap of wanting too much. Do you really need a bigger house, a new car or a lot of clothes and other possessions? Do you really see yourself as someone who is on the ‘house ladder’ or the ‘career ladder’? Why don’t you just get off?
- Do you live according to the resources you have? If not, why are you doing that?
- Make an inventory. Learn to distinguish between what you really need and what you think you need. Think of all those fairytale heroines who are instructed to separate the wheat from the chaff or who – like Psyche, for example – are asked to sort a large pile of seeds by type. Then make a list of all the things you have and all the things you fill your days with (work and leisure), and determine what is of real value to you and what you can do without. What things stress you the most? What habits or relationships depress you?