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By Alyssa Swanson Hamilton | Contributor



What exactly is slow living? Many of us have likely come across elements of this ideology on social media or in books, but what is it and how do we put it into practice? Hint: it really has nothing to do with speed, and you don’t have to be a homesteader to benefit.

Slow living is a philosophy, incorporating mindfulness, maintaining a steady and consistent pace with daily activities, nourishing consistent connections with yourself and the world, releasing the need for busyness, and learning to say “no.” It means structuring your life around meaning and fulfillment. It’s similar in practice to “voluntary simplicity” (seeking to minimize dependency on institutions you cannot control (such as government, oil companies, and large agribusiness food companies and to maximize your harmony with nature) and “downshifting,” (adopting long-term voluntary simplicity; for example, focusing on consuming less in order to reduce your ecological footprint).

Slow living encourages a release of all that does not serve us. Donating, recycling, and giving away excess household items a few times a year is a route to a slow living lifestyle. This lifestyle prizes quality over quantity. It might incorporate frequenting your local refill shop (Fill Up Buttercup in Costa Mesa was featured in a previous issue and Amis De La Terre in this issue) and buying in bulk to avoid excess single-use plastic consumption, household chemical applications and waste. It could include shopping at physical or online secondhand stores (Goodwill, Poshmark)  to avoid purchasing unnecessary new items. Slowing down our material consumption benefits the planet. The fashion industry (“fast fashion” in particular), for example, is a top international polluter. Slow living also can incorporate daily rhythms such as following the cycle of the sun and detoxing from digital devices. 

It’s a discipline in a world of distractions.


Does slow living mean a return to Little House on the Prairie days? Do you need to buy a farm and take a baseball bat to your iPad, a là Office Space? Instagram may have popularized prairie boho chic, but the actual practice of slow living includes a digital declutter or detox. One of the biggest challenges of slow living might be not posting about it at all.

Intrigued? Here are 10 key tips to get you started on your path to slow living freedom:

1.  Recognize “busyness” and understand that it is a choice. We have the same 24 hours in the day that we’ve always had, and modern conveniences have taken over many manual labor chores we once held. “Busyness,” i.e. overscheduling, running out of time, etc. can be a symptom of our modern age rather than a true time issue. Busyness may serve as a badge of honor – showing our importance or value in a fast-paced society – a form of job security (the company couldn’t function without me!), or be a symptom of FOMO (fear of missing out), a byproduct of the digital age i.e. Highlight Reels and competitive social media posts. 

2.  Begin the process of identifying and putting into practice your life’s purpose. Say yes to what matters to you the most. In Japan, this is called ikigai. “Ikigai, which is the highest level of desire, may be considered to be essentially the processes of cultivating one’s inner potential or that which makes one’s life significant. Needs associated with ikigai are not simply equal to the desires for biological satisfaction or the desires of humans as social creatures. They are the individual desires of humans as spiritual beings.”  Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Héctor García and Francesc Miralles.

3.  Practice saying “no” to everything else (the non-essentials).


4.  Start slow and small by “downshifting,” or incorporating elements of minimalism. Don’t try to do everything at once. 

5.  Practice being present (even in the mundane). Even chores such as vacuuming or doing dishes can be meditative. Try eating without your phone or a book at the table, focusing only on your food and any dining companions, and do household work without the TV or a podcast on. See if you can drive in silence.


6.  Create space and margin in your day. If you have free time, do not rush to fill it. Allow it to remain unscheduled.

7.  Invite a “slow information diet” into your life. Best-selling author Cal Newport (a computer science professor at Georgetown University and a New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including A World Without Email, Digital Minimalism, and Deep Work, which have been published in over 35 languages) says that the purpose of a digital detox or declutter is to help you reset your digital life to something more intentional and meaningful. He recommends a three-step process: 

  • Take a break from optional technologies (for the entire month of January, for example)

  • Identify what really matters (and what you really want to be doing with your time)

  • Reintroduce technology (in an intentional manner)

“During this break,” he says “you’ll confront life directly, without the dulling mediation of a screen, allowing you to rediscover which activities and behaviors really provide value in your life, and which are mindless distractions…In general, the most important thing is to fix some set of rules for the digital declutter that make sense to you. Then do your best to follow these rules, while simultaneously going easy on yourself when the inevitable backslide or exception emerges.”


8.   Commit to putting your life before work. This is a challenging one for many of us. Some suggestions include time blocking (deliberately scheduling white space into your calendar, even if it’s 10 minutes for a meditation or a 20 minute walk or restorative nap) and accepting the truth that the human brain is not wired to multi-task. Close out of your DMs and socials when you’re in a meeting. Turn off email and text notifications and instead choose designated times to check your accounts. Sleep with your phone on airplane mode or turned off. If you need the ringer on at bedtime, put your phone in another nearby room or the hallway and silence non-essential notifications.

9.  Get outside. “An EPA study found that Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors…We are, after all, animals, and it’s hard to forget that, even if some try real hard, surrounding themselves with walls, metal, glass, and screens. Those people tend to pay a price, often with their health and quality of life.” — Walking even 20 minutes a day, preferably in a natural setting, is a powerfully restorative practice. Current research also supports the importance of maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm (your 24-hour sleep-wake cycle). Even two minutes of early morning sunlight exposure (sit or stand outside facing east or walk toward the sun, without sunglasses, glasses or contacts in order to receive the full spectrum of sunlight) helps the body make cortisol, as well as dopamine and serotonin (which will later convert to melatonin, helping you sleep soundly). Blue light from screens interrupts our circadian rhythms and contributes to anxiety and sleeplessness. Regulating our circadian rhythms, and powering down all screens an hour before bedtime increases quality of sleep and overall health.

10.  Find inspiration in a slow-living challenge! From slow living to fashion, travel to money, there are countless ways to begin. Click here to learn more.

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