Curious on ways to begin slow living?
Hello, my friend and welcome back to the Simple Joys blog! 🙂
I am no stranger to the hectic and busy side of life. For years I chased after things outside of myself: achievement, gold stars, more money and approval from others. For years I was a people-pleaser and hustled and strived for things that I thought would make me happy. I lived in a busy, seemingly glamorous life in New York City with my calendar constantly filled with various social engagements, classes and nights out on the town. I actually took pride in my exciting life of art gallery openings, concerts, and off-broadway plays.
And today my life looks nothing like that…and yet I’m so much happier and more at peace, in large part to the many ways I began slow living.
Three years ago I read a book that radically transformed my prior ways of living: Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path.This cozy, wholesome book introduced me to an alternative way of viewing and living life and it was the start to my interest in the slow living movement. But it was my move to France that permanently transformed my beliefs around success, purpose and finding meaning in life.
After living in France for the last two years, I now look at the American way of life as extremely fast-paced, work-focused, and money-oriented. From a French perspective, Americans value productivity, hustling, and chasing the dream of acquiring more in life. And that is wonderful for those that value that way of life. But aside from Paris, that lifestyle is not celebrated or valued here in France. And after learning from the French, and seeing how truly happy they are with less, I realize that there is something valuable for everyone in living a slower pace of life.
And while living in France has been a major catalyst in my lifestyle changes, I also attribute my passion for slow living from a simple case of millennial burnout. More and more people in today’s climate, especially those in my generation, are realizing that doing more and chasing after more money, more success, and more material possessions don’t bring long-lasting happiness.
We’re realizing that we don’t need more friendships to feel emotionally fulfilled. We’re leaving university to pursue long-forgotten passions and pastimes, finally admitting to ourselves that the crippling student debt in the United States just isn’t worth it. Some of us are leaving home and moving abroad. Many of us deleting our social media profiles and sharing less of ourselves online.
Take the travel community, for instance. Far before the Covid outbreak, travel influencers have been slowing down in their travels, attributing it to burnout and exhaustion. As someone who has loved following travel bloggers and travel photographers over the years, I’ve observed a similar trend of travel bloggers transitioning to cooking, social work and the self-help world. Checking off boxes and comparing how many countries you’ve traveled to isn’t soul-fulfilling. In fact, it’s soul-killing. And we’re realizing we need to slow down to truly appreciate life.
For a soft and quiet soul, a busy lifestyle chasing accolades from the external world is draining, depleting and entirely unsustainable. It doesn’t provide value or meaning. In fact, it’s depleting.
Today I live in a small mountain village with 200 others on a French island in the Mediterranean Sea. On the outside, my life may seem dull in comparison to the more exciting and glamourous life I lived in New York City, but today my days are filled with my husband, my writing, my art, my home, and the forest, animals, and warm-hearted Corsicans that surround me.
A slowed-down life doesn’t mean you stop improving yourself or that you toss out your goals and start a homestead life. You don’t have to move out into the country, become a homemaker, or quit your passions. You can be ambitious and still live a slow lifestyle.
But so many life coaches and self-help teachers encourage us to push ourselves to be productive and the absolute best version of ourselves. But not everyone craves that intensity. Not everyone feels motivated from busy days and increased responsibility.
One of the best ways to begin slow living is to live your life with full awareness of where you give and get your energy. Knowing your energy limitations opens up that space to be productive and free! When we use our time on Earth with intention and carve enough time in our day for rest and reflection, we are better equipped to work hard and generate income for ourselves and our loved ones. It goes without saying that we have to work in life. And building good work habits is an admirable and essential part of our experience as humans.
The problem with pursuing the fast life is that it can often lead us to murky waters filled with a deep longing for material possessions, far-flung adventures and achievements that will not fill our souls with gratitude, peace and true joy and fulfillment.
Those yearnings are a distraction to a truly happy life.
Because joy stems from within, not outside of us. Doing is not being.
As I’ve been learning how to live a slower pace of life while living in France, I wanted to share with you some practical ways to begin slow living.
This is an easy way to slow down and allow the mind’s thoughts to drift away. Look at the colors around. Place your attention on the sensorial experiences. Tune into the senses. Feel the leaves on the ground as you walk on top of them. Drag your finger along the tree’s bark. Close your eyes and get swept up in the rush of the wind against your face. Connecting to your five senses is a powerful way to connect with your inner guidance system and begin a slow life filled with intention and gratitude.
One of the main ways that I embrace my simple and slow living journey is appreciating what I have now. Even when I don’t have all that I desire, I can still feel immense gratitude and joy from admiring the things that I do have! Not only do I appreciate those items, but I am also always exploring ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle what I already own.
If I don’t need it, I don’t buy it.
And while embracing this slow lifestyle, I’ve noticed that I want less because I need less.
When I go towards creating a look, I always think, how can I rework, rewear, and reuse what I currently own, or what others have already owned?
You might notice on my social media, my blog or Youtube channel that I don’t share links to outfits or fashion pieces I like because most of what I enjoy is thrifted or second-hand. I am, indeed, an outfit repeater because I don’t feel the desire to constantly be buying new pieces. For what purpose? All that I own is exactly what I need.
Let’s be honest: you do not need to be entertained by social media when you’re in the company of nature. We have become so distracted and distant from connecting to our beautiful planet, the intricate wonders of nature, the minuscule fabrics of life that we feel we always need to be “on” and connected online. Instead, try a different approach. Allow this to be an experiment! Leave your phone at home while on vacation. Open yourself up to your senses to the natural world that currently surrounds you. Set time limits for social media use on your phone. And begin leaving your phone in your car or home more often when you go out.
Instead of pulling your phone out, pause for a bit longer when you’re stirring a pot of boiling pasta. Enjoy the fresh air on your walk outside, and spend some moments observing the squirrels as they collect and store nuts for winter. Imagine what it must look like from a bird’s perspective.
While standing in line at the post office or riding the subway to work, spend time moments people-watching Allow your mind to wander. Revisit your imagination! Daydream. Ponder life and the silliness of it all!
Be here now, and I promise you, you will feel so much connected and celebratory about the ordinary mundane of our everyday lives.
One of the biggest ways to begin slow living is to create daily habits that support rest rather than entertainment.
Take more time to sleep every night, take five minutes every morning to just breathe. Reflect inwards by journaling or taking a 10-minute walk around your neighborhood. Devote one entire day per week to rest, reflect and refreshen your soul. No work, no side-hustles, no social engagements. Spend that time recalibrating. Take a few conscious deep breaths when washing your hands. Stop and hold your partner for a little longer in the morning. Enjoy a cup of steaming hot cocoa in the morning with a fiction read and some kitty cuddles.
I recently was inspired by someone who left a comment on one of my Youtube videos mentioning that they spend one per day every week without technology and screen time. How brilliant! I’ve begun implementing this habit a few weeks ago and this technology-free day is my most sacred and precious day of the week. And what a marvelous difference it’s made to the rest of my work-week!
Try to pace yourself throughout your day and remember that life is not a race. Work to live, instead of prioritizing your life around work. Because your purpose is in whatever you are doing in that moment. Not later today or far off in the future. Right now.
One of the best ways to begin slow living is to play! Be curious and try something new! Start celebrating life regularly and begin asking “why?” more!
Take some time out to do something without being attached to the outcome. Pursue a tactile hobby without the intent to monetize it on Etsy.
Feel the truth of the air on your skin! Pick some wildflowers, cherish the lone ladybug, imagine a fantasy world that is your creation! Switch up your morning commute. Take a detour through the park. Text your partner to meet you for a spontaneous date night thirty minutes before! Ask your friends to meet you for a Saturday at the trampoline park! Take a break from the computer for three minutes and blast an upbeat tune from your childhood and move your body! Sing loudly in the shower and pretend you’re dancing in a music video!
Channel your inner Anne Shirley.
There are so many ways to delight your inner child and play! Cherish that whimsical part of you, the part of you that never left…
One of the best ways to begin slow living is to actively observe the words we use in our everyday speech. A slow life in an intentional life. The types of media we consume, the books we read, the people we listen to and interact with, and even the words we use affect how we feel and thus how we view our world.
For example, I don’t use the word “should” because the word should often imply force or disapproval if I don’t do something. It’s an expectation that implies punishment.
But here’s the truth: you actually have a choice in life. You have free will to determine how you’d like to spend your remaining days, and you don’t have to do anything. It’s only the mind that is creating these extra problems and worries for you. Don’t take your power away by disapproving of yourself and using the word “should”.
I also like to say, “I’m excited to ____” instead of “I can’t wait”. These small tweaks in my everyday language encourage me to live more slowly and with more appreciation and intention! We are generators of consciousness and our language is our building block. The energy and meaning of the words we use every day are just as important as the actions we take.
One of my favorite things to do in my spare time is to take a walk and let the natural sunlight’s rays to guide me in the direction I should walk.
This is a literal example of what I mean to allow yourself to be led, but metaphorically speaking I encourage you to allow yourself to be led by the tides and waves of life. Instead of controlling your circumstances and the world around you, trust your inner voice and allow life to guide you to where you’re meant to be.
In other words, let go of your preferences.
Instead of saying things like, “I can’t possibly do ____” or “I don’t want to do _____” I like to release my ego’s expectations and I surrender to the divine flow of this Universe.
One important lesson I’ve learned in my personal life is that what you think you want or need to be happy is most oftentimes wrong.
Your “dream job” in college might be a total drain once you get out into the real world and actually do it. Your goals that you have now might not align with your overarching core values or the lifestyle that would actually make you most happy. That dream partner you’ve always wanted to manifest may not actually challenge or compliment you in a fulfilling way.
I’ve spent years wasting time and energy on pursuits and goals that didn’t align with my heart. I regret not following the flow of life and trusting my intuition sooner. Instead, I spent years putting my monkey brain in the driver’s seat to determine what would make me really truly happy. Then I would create goals and action plans to get me there. By the time I worked hard and arrived at my destination, it only took 5 minutes to realize I chose the wrong profession, the wrong city, the wrong friendships, etc.
Don’t do what I did.
Instead, surrender. Allow yourself the light guide you. (This book on Surrender is amazing!)
A fun way to begin slow living is to ground yourself and connect with the natural elements. Trees – or rather, nature in general – can be our greatest teachers.
Find a tree, and spend a moment observing it. This tree is in perfect alignment with itself and the world around it. These leaves and branches never once questioned its path or purpose. This trunk never once considered growing into a sunflower or a raspberry bush. It never once got triggered or offended by another tree. It never felt frightened to grow or bloom when it was naturally guided to.
This tree is just here: being fully present and occupied with being what it is: a tree.
Nature is here to teach us so many small wonders, and it is part of a complex matrix of all beings that are unified and interconnected. As humans, we are unified in this same way.
Be with nature. Take yourself to the trees. While leaning against a tree, take a moment to become still. Allow yourself space to wonder, to marvel! It is when we are with nature in this way that we can reap their timeless lessons.
There are those chipper days when I’ll be walking around town, people-watching and feeling so present with each footstep, each breath and mundane observation that I will feel insanely happy….for no reason aside from that I am here experiencing all of this! It is in these moments of elation and total peace that I start to feel an overwhelming sense of love for everyone around me, even those I’ve never met before. It’s almost as if I can literally feel the woven thread, this life force, that unites all of us humans together.
And because I’m such an emotional person, there are days when I sense this overwhelming feeling of love and unity, that I’ll shed happy tears. HAPPY TEARS! This is the closest I’ve been towards living in a Turquoise state of being on the Spiral Dynamics scale. And I feel this way often when I’m surrounded by nature, blue skies and people.
Partner with the world, and ponder the interconnectedness of all things. We all experience this reality through our own unique filter and perception, but we can change our view of the world from “I-You” to “We” by simply appreciating that which is around us.
Focus on how we are connected, not how we are separate.
Many people on this planet are asleep, living life by default. Most have not have woken up yet to the divine magic that is always present. As we leave childhood and grow into mature adults, we lose our playful sense of wonder. Noticing what is beautiful comes so easily to a child. And it also can come easily to us, adults, if we develop habits of gratitude and appreciation for the simple joys in our everyday lives.
Take 5 minutes every day to notice the small wonders in your world. What is around you that you find pleasant and beautiful?
One of the best ways to begin slow living is to notice the simple joys. To pause enough in your day to admire and cherish the small wonders and quiet delights. Maybe that’s the steam billowing from your morning cup of coffee, passing by a wildly ebullient pup wagging its tail or a lone wildflower growing from a slab of concrete on the sidewalk.
Noticing what is beautiful reminds us to slow down. Appreciating the small joys in our ordinary lives encourage us to take a little extra time to reflect and marvel. Because what’s the point of living if we don’t enjoy it? What’s the point of our existence if we don’t take the time to marvel at how we’re even here, floating on this swirling blue planet in our massive galaxy?
So, my friend, if you’re looking for some ways to begin slow living, I encourage you to look at your priorities in life. Look at your core values objectively and ask yourself if they align with the daily actions and goals that you’re prioritizing in your life now. Do your values align with the words you use? Do your goals and weekly tasks encourage you to live a slower pace of life or are they more aligned with a lifestyle that is chasing external outcomes and approval?
Begin from your core values, because when you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.
Much love and a warm hug,
For more ways to begin slow living, join my email list to receive monthly love notes from me about slow living and the simple joys in our everyday! If you’d like to watch more of my films on slow living and my intentional life in France, feel free to follow along via Youtube and subscribe to the Simple Joys channel!
October 12, 2020
Living France Magazine
Airy Fairy Feminist Podcast
Daily Dog Tag
Amor Latino Unveiled
Check out all my favorite photography gear, travel must-haves, resources, books I love, business hacks and so much more!
© 2016-2020, Helena Woods Photography, All rights reserved | France, New England, New York City, Massachusetts, Connecticut
Helena Woods is a newborn and family photographer in Alsace France and travels worldwide for her clients. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.
© 2016-2020, Helena Woods Photography, All rights reserved | France, New England, New York City, Massachusetts, Connecticut
No content may be downloaded, copied or reproduced from this site, including images, video or written content without express prior permission.