Published: 2 June 2021. Written by: Nicky Rampley-Clarke.
We look at the concept of ‘slow living’, how to harness it and whether it is the secret to a healthier and happier life.
Grinding the beans and frothing the milk for your morning coffee; enjoying a leisurely walk after work; and weekends hunkering down at home rather than bouncing from one event to the next, hoping at least one of them is called off at the last minute.
Slowing down has certainly become something many of us have mastered during the pandemic.
Pre-Covid, life was fast and furious; from the chaos of the school run to long, uncomfortable commutes into back-to-back meetings, a quick dash to Pret, more meetings, clinking rounds of after-work drinks, then an even longer, more uncomfortable commute home. Sounds exhausting? That’s because it was.
So, as we emerge from lockdown and step back into ‘reality’, how can we safeguard the slow living many of us have come to savour?
What is slow living?
Slow living encourages taking it down a gear and enjoying a slower approach in all aspects of life. The theory is, by taking it easier, we’re more conscious about our actions, opening up our senses to really enjoy what’s right in front of us.
During the first lockdown, we initially panicked about cancelling the dates that clogged up our diaries, but three lockdowns in and we’re wondering if what came before was really that important at all? We were forced to hit the pause button, and spend more time at home with our families and our thoughts. For many of us, it harked back to a simpler time, free of distractions.
Now, with over 3.5m posts for #theartofslowliving on Instagram, and entire well-established magazines such as Kinfolk and Breathe dedicated to the lifestyle, it doesn’t look like the trend is going anywhere soon.
Here, we look at the advantages of slow living, and how we can ensure this new way of life isn’t easily forgotten.
Slowing down will save you money
From your fancy morning croissant to after-work beers, simply going about our normal day used to add up. When hibernating at home, with nothing other than Amazon deliveries to splash the cash on, many of us found a few spare pennies at the end of every month. ThisIsMoney.co.uk calls it ‘accidental saving’ and claims that between April and June 2020, British households saved £54.6bn and stashed away 29.1% of their disposable income, with this savings ratio more than double the previous record. It’s hardly surprising, then, that some of us are reluctant to fling open our wallets again.
We’re questioning whether things are really worth their price tags. It’s not that we don’t want to spend – rather that we’re re-evaluating what we’re spending it on.
Recently, we’ve invested in our homes and ourselves, from DIY to online classes, with something tangible to show for it. According to research by Scottish Friendly and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, Brits are preparing for a £50bn post-pandemic spending spree, predicting travel and experiences as the next big-ticket items. With mindless consumerism at an all-time high prior to Covid, spending money more mindfully on experiences can only be a good thing as we move forward.
It can develop your creativity
Many of us have developed our creativity and tapped into our talent over the past year, whether it’s baking banana bread, cutting our own hair or picking up a paintbrush for the first time in years. Virtual masterclasses have surged, from wine tasting to flower arranging, representing a real appetite for creative growth. With time to think, some people have also ditched their corporate jobs to follow long-forgotten passions, while start-ups have soared with would-be entrepreneurs finally chasing their dreams.
The FT reports that new business incorporations in the UK were up 30% in the four weeks to mid-December 2020, compared to the same period the previous year. Many permanent staff have gone freelance for more flex, too, enjoying a juggling act of creative projects (they’re being called ‘Covid-preneurs’). So, as routine kicks in and offices beckon, it’s hardly surprising that apprehension hangs in the air. Before jumping back on that hamster wheel, remember what you’ve relished in recent months, and carve out the time to continue feeding that creativity. Home haircuts optional.
Slow living allows time to foster relationships
Ironically, even when we were not able to see our nearest and dearest, the pandemic enabled some of us to develop even stronger relationships. We’ve had to make a conscious effort to stay connected: picking up the phone regularly to a relative; scheduling weekly family quizzes; or chatting to a neighbour over the fence.
Dating, too, has required more effort and thinking outside the box, with pints in pubs replaced by flat whites on FaceTime.
Relationships expert and sex writer Alix Fox says: ‘Dating app Hinge is so convinced that singles are fully converted to using FaceTime as a pre-meet-up “vibe check”, that in April it launched Video Prompts. A video chat that helps couples kickstart conversations.’
According to research by Vibio and Aperio Insights, 59% of couples believe the pandemic has made their partnerships better, with improved communication and more time together. Our relationships with ourselves have also been given a boost. Alix continues: ‘In a survey of more than 5,000 people commissioned by designer sex toy company TENGA, 38% of men and 29% of women reported self-pleasuring more often. It wasn’t just frequency that changed – scores discovered a more mindful approach by slowing things down to focus on every sensation and relieve stress and anxiety.’
Beyond individual relationships, Covid has brought about a new-found love of community, too, with a sense of ‘pulling together’ through trying times. Whether a neighbourhood WhatsApp group or the weekly Clap For Carers, we’ve shown kindness beyond our immediate circles. With some of us having watched loved ones self-isolate, fall ill or pass away, our relationships have never been more precious, and there’s a renewed respect for those around us. Now our priorities are finally in order, let’s remember to take the time to continue putting people first.
Going slow can reduce stress
While isolation, sickness, unemployment and furlough have been extremely tough on many, a report by the Mental Health Foundation has found that a surprising 64% of the UK population is actually coping well with the stress of the pandemic. Whether going for a walk, spending time in green spaces or staying connected with others, it suggests that nine out of 10 people are using at least one slow-living mechanism to cope.
Certainly, ditching the fast pace of the outside world has had its advantages for some, with not commuting giving us valuable time back and making us more efficient. A survey by the Institute of Employment Studies found over a third thought working from home was motivational, enabling them to work in a more productive environment with increased autonomy. Being forced to slow down has also meant more time to actively work on calming activities, from daily cardio in front of the TV with Joe Wicks to morning meditation using the Headspace app.
Ring-fencing time for our tried-and-trusted stress-busters will help us remain calm as the pace picks up again; as will making the most of places like leisure centres, gyms and yoga studios as they throw open their doors.
More time for nourishment and living well
Many of us have finally got to grips with cooking from scratch, with searches for even the most basic of skills such as ‘how to boil an egg’ and ‘how to cook an omelette’ spiking around this time last year.
We’ve replaced our on-the-go meals with homemade breakfasts and lunches, while lots of us have made evening meal times ‘a thing’, swapping TV dinners for quality family time around the table. Indeed, the BBC reported that a study of 1,000 14-19-year-olds found 60% of them thought that more shared family meal times were positive for health and wellbeing, and wanted to continue making time for them post-pandemic.
Dr Carrie Ruxton, a dietitian at the Tea Advisory Panel, says: ‘From a nutrition perspective, we should definitely safeguard our tea breaks and home cooking. During lockdown, we drank more tea since cafés were closed and we worked from home. Tea is rich in polyphenols, with a dash of caffeine, and has been shown in clinical trials to boost alertness and mental focus. Cooking at home is great for health because we know what’s going into our meals, plus, studies show that cooking and eating together as a family improves wellbeing, reduces family conflict and helps with weight management, too.’
With so much good to have come out of the bad – a slower pace of life urging us to take stock, prioritise and look after ourselves and each other – it would be remiss to rush straight back into old habits. Renowned GP Dr Jane Leonard advises: ‘Lockdown has been a time for reflection for us all. The stress of life can mean we become less present in managing and enjoying our lives. Keeping the habits of self-care, relaxation and time alone and with the people you love and value is an essential thing to take forward in the next chapter post-lockdown.’
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