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What is Slow Living and could it be right for you?

How to live slowly in a fast-paced world

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Slow Living may be considered the Great Resignation’s answer to Hustle Culture — but it’s been around for a lot longer than many people realize. What we now know as the Slow Living movement got its start in the 1980s, as people began to push back against a culture that kept asking them to move faster and faster.

Since then, we’ve been asked to work even harder — at home, at the office, managing and balancing responsibilities that didn’t exist 40 years ago. The people who felt like they were moving too fast in the 1980s could hardly have imagined a world with overflowing inboxes and unprecedented public health crises, not to mention still-rising inflation, the threat of recession, the new challenges of working at home with kids and the ongoing need to balance work, parenting and eldercare.

Since we can’t move any faster, the only answer may be to slow down — which is why we asked two mental health advocates how to live more slowly in a fast-paced world.

Here’s a quick introduction to each of our experts:

Dr. Natanya Wachtel, behavioral science expert, co-founder of the wellness app evrmore and host of a weekly streaming TV segment for caregivers called “Mindful Moments”: “Growing up in an immigrant family, I was almost indoctrinated into Hustle Culture — and although it surely helped me achieve much of my commercial success, it was detrimental to my interpersonal relationships. 

“Today, as a reformed hustler who makes time for Slow Living in real, dedicated ways, l share my struggles and tips with the women I mentor via WomenWhoCreate.org and the GenZ youth advisors from evrmore.io. The benefits of Slow Living include better overall health, lower blood pressure, better eating habits, lower rates of depression and anxiety and better overall reported quality of life.”

Dr. Peggy Loo, licensed psychologist and director of the Manhattan Therapy Collective: “I work with high-achieving adults, many of whom have careers that are demanding, outcomes-oriented and implicitly reward hustle or extreme dedication to the job as a measure of care or the only way to advance. A lot of my patients treat their therapy sessions as the one time a week that they slow down to check in with how they’re doing. 

“I think one of the key things to embracing Slow Living is identifying what the explicit advantages are for your life in comparison to Hustle Culture. It takes a paradigm shift to not value multitasking, end results and the badge of honor of ‘taking one for the team’ — and some people never pause to imagine that they could feel more fulfilled or content doing less.”

Keep reading to learn how Dr. Wachtel and Dr. Loo define Slow Living, how they incorporate Slow Living into their own lives and how you can get started with Slow Living — even when life feels too busy to do anything but hustle.

“The benefits of Slow Living include better overall health, lower blood pressure, better eating habits, lower rates of depression and anxiety and better overall reported quality of life.”

—Dr. Natanya Wachtel, behavioral science expert

How do you define Slow Living?

Wachtel: “Slow Living means taking time to be present, as much as possible. More than ever, many of us are overworked, stressed, tired and struggling emotionally and mentally. What would life be like if we weren’t so busy? If, instead of cramming our day with back-to-back tasks, we made sure there was some time for reflection on what we value most?

“The Slow Living movement emphasizes slower approaches to everyday life, and helps us feel calmer and more centered.”

Loo: “As a psychologist, I would define Slow Living as living in such a way or pace that allows you to hear your own thoughts or notice your emotions, whatever they may be. It has less to do with living life in literal slow-motion, although this strategy may help someone become more present in any given moment, and more about approaching life in a way that allows someone the time and space necessary to be in touch with their internal world.”

Wachtel: “What we know as Slow Living originally began in Italy in the 1980s with the Slow Food Movement, prompted by Carlo Petrini as he saw the negative effects of industrialized fast-food systems on food, health, social justice and culture. The Slow Food Movement has now expanded into other areas of life, and Slow Living has become a part of this overarching movement of slowing down and enjoying a more wholesome simplified life.”

What are the benefits of Slow Living?

Wachtel: “Studies have shown that slowing down your pace of life, calming your mind, and being in the present moment as much as possible has real, measurable health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, anxiety and more.”

Loo: “One of the major benefits is being present for your own life. In my line of work, I often find that people are stuck in the past or already in the future. They have a hard time being dialed into the present day they’re in. If you’re actually present, so many other secondary gains can come with — intentionality, gratitude, attention to beauty and process, prioritization of what matters, connection with others, perspective, to name a few.”

Wachtel: “If we actually make a space for stillness, taking a pause between errands, can we find some peace in those in-between moments? Perhaps we would feel less overwhelmed, too? We might even have more clarity and be more productive. If you give Slow Living a chance, it may also help you realize what you need to let go of — so that you can make room for what matters.”

How do you incorporate Slow Living into your own life?

Wachtel: “At a minimum, I try to wake up and take a few minutes to center myself, set an intention for the day and commit to taking a few small Slow Breaks — all before I look at any screens or engage with anyone.

“I block time on my calendar each day for myself, and although I sometimes don’t get to use it, for the most part I do, and each time I see the benefits repay tenfold. I feel more calm, focused and happy when I do these things, and the people around me benefit, too.”

Loo: “As I do with any new habit or action, I would encourage someone to incorporate Slow Living into an already existing routine. It’s hard to add something entirely new to your life and much easier to attach it to something you’re already regularly doing. So if you’re in the habit of making coffee when you wake up, you can incorporate Slow Living by noticing the process of making it — instead of going on autopilot — and experiencing the enjoyment you get from your morning cup.”

Wachtel: “Slow Living favors quality over quantity. Not just in the food we consume, but in the digital information we absorb, our everyday experiences, and the relationships we have with others. It’s going against the grain of “doing it all” and always wanting to accumulate more. Slow Living is learning to live simply, but well.”

What is your advice for people who feel too busy to try Slow Living?

Wachtel: “I recommend you try perhaps to sit and enjoy your meals away from screens. Appreciate the flavor and experience of eating. Even something as simple as taking a moment to appreciate the fact that you have food to eat can help enhance your entire day.

“You can also try to focus on a few apps for news and social media that we trust and block out the noise of others. Some people practice Slow Living by supporting artisans and sustainable brands who use traditional methods and are passionate about their craft, instead of buying mass-produced items that are made cheaply and with little care.

“There’s even Slow Parenting, a way of raising children that aims to avoid filling up their schedules and overwhelming them with too many activities. Lastly, you can try embracing Slow Work, which emphasizes using your time in a more meaningful and productive way, taking controlled breaks and giving quality time and energy to focus on one task at a time.”

Loo: “I often encourage people to ask themselves if what they’re so busy focusing on will feel quite so important in a year, in 10 years. Often, the answer is a quick no. It’s not that it’s wrong to be busy — but to be busy at the cost of what matters in big picture terms can be a sign of lost perspective.”

Wachtel: “We all have things in life we must do — paperwork, pay bills, cooking, maintaining a home and/or working in a job to pay for a roof over our heads. But quite often we try to pack in as much as we possibly can — or, if we are being honest with ourselves, we take on more than we perhaps need to.

“We might overcomplicate something that could be kept simple. Slow Living means being thoughtful about our daily decisions, and prioritizing those that help us feel light, rather than weigh us down.”

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About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

Read more by Nicole Dieker

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

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