Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.
~Simon & Garfunkel
In recent years, I have become interested in the slow living lifestyle trend. Slow living is a natural product of the changes I was making already with embracing minimalism and mindfulness. My son's autism diagnosis was helpful in eliminating any competitive feelings I may have had about parenting (and life). It also forced me to slow down for my son's well being as well as for my own. We both need time to regroup and to just be. A lot of this "being" is accomplished by simply clearing schedules and having time to connect with each other at home. This doesn't mean that we don't accomplish anything, in fact, I feel that I am more productive now than I have ever been (and I am an extreme goal setter by nature).
Slow living is exactly as it sounds, slowing down, focusing on what is important to you, and letting go of the idea that you need to do everything. It is learning when to say, "no" and when to say, "yes." Feeling overwhelmed, disconnected, and the realization that more isn't necessarily better, are all signs that slow living might be for you. There is a misconception in the modern world that being busy is a badge of honour, although many of the most successful and creative people have learned that slowing down increases productivity and creative output.
If this sounds like something that might interest you, the first thing to do is to analyze your days and be brave enough to make necessary changes. At the end of the day, reflect on what brought you the most joy. Take a moment to be grateful. Do this every day, and try to increase your joy bringing activities. It must be noted that a lot of joy inducing activities are work, slow living is not the avoidance of work. People are happiest when they are learning and growing. The idea is to prune your activities down to those that will bring the most meaning to your life. There seems to be a tendency to over schedule, especially with children. I have been a private music teacher for half my life, and have witnessed repeatedly the difference between an over scheduled child and a child that has more time for free play. The latter is a more successful student in most cases, not to mention a happier child.
Another important step to slow living is to let go of competition and stop comparing yourself to others. The only healthy competition is with yourself, trying to improve and be better than you were yesterday. When we are competitive with others, we are missing so many elements of the big picture. There is no way of knowing someone else's personal struggles or day to day details of their lives, so it seems an exercise in futility to be constantly comparing. Comparing to others is a recipe for unhappiness. We tend to compare our weaknesses to someone else's strengths, this leads to discouragement. If you can truly let go of comparison and competition with those in your life, an amazing thing happens, you embrace and support one another, a sense of community and friendship emerges, and you truly feel happy for the success of others.
An easy way to slow down and enjoy life is to increase mindfulness. There are many ways to do this, meditation, or ensuring that you have time for free thought (I do this during my outdoor walks). The most simple approach, however, is to "stop and smell the roses." Take pause multiple times a day. Notice the beauty of nature, a sunset, the buds on the trees in early spring, the smell of the air after a rain shower, the feeling of a gentle breeze, the sound of the birds chirping. Look into a child's eyes, really listen and connect. Observe the good in people, make note of all the small kindnesses people do for each other, opening a door, smiling, saying hello. Put away distractions (computers, smart phones) when you are with loved ones so that you can be truly present. Take care when preparing your food, enjoy the look/smell/taste of what you are eating. Eat slower. Find a way to enjoy the mundane. Enjoy the warm water to wash your dishes, the feeling of having a clean bathroom, the landscape you observe on your commute. Feel grateful for the beauty that is all around and take the time to enjoy it.
Life is pretty groovy. Rejoice in the imperfections of mortality (this is where humour is helpful), slow down, delight in your experiences. I promise that it is worth it.