What is Slow Living? The Complete Guide to Slow Living for Beginners

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If you’re feeling exhausted by today’s world and want to slow down and live more intentionally every day, you’re ready for a lifestyle change. In this guide to slow living, I’ll answer important questions like what is slow living and what are the benefits of slow living so you can start living a slower, more intentional life today.

foxglove by a split rail fence in a guide to slow living.

After years of feeling like something was missing from my life, I stumbled into a slow living lifestyle that helped me feel better physically and emotionally.

I’d always craved a meaningful life and felt drawn to learning about history and the past.

It seemed like life was so much richer back in the day, but now, everything is the same everywhere. It’s all about money or looking good, not about being good people. 

I started working at a farmers market so I could be closer to local food and local businesses, which led me to start gardening and preserving the harvest.

This really deepened my connection with nature, which sparked my love of seasonal living. I was amazed by all the different jobs and work people could do; I could run a small farm or run my own business. 

Although I made some missteps along the way, I’ve made a deliberate choice to commit to my own healing and well-being, which completely changed my life for the better.

As I found more people living like this, I realized I was part of a movement of people who want to reclaim the old ways of doing things for the modern world. Since this approach has been so powerful in my personal life, I wanted to share it with others so they could do the same.

guide to slow living picture of plants from a walk in nature.

The Complete Guide to Slow Living for Beginners

The goal of this handy guide is to break down the layers of slow living to make it easier for you to understand exactly what it means, how a slow pace of life can help you, and get inspired with a slow living tip or two you can use right away. 

What is Slow Living?

Although a slow lifestyle looks different for different people, there are some central tenets to this philosophy.

Let’s dig into those so you can identify which parts matter to you and start taking steps toward living a more balanced life.

Carl Honore, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed

The Definition of Slow Living

Slow living is a lifestyle philosophy that focuses on cultivating a slower, more mindful approach to daily life. 

In fact, I often think of slow living as mindfulness. It looks the same in many ways: 

  • grounding yourself
  • establishing daily routines to help you tune out distractions and commit to your values
  • trying to move beyond those momentary frustrations of existence

​I believe that at the core of slow living, we are all seeking embodiment. We want to truly be in our bodies instead of being lost in the clouds. We want to hear the sounds, feel the sun, and be truly present instead of distracted by the stresses of the world.

This is a huge challenge, and for some people, it can take years of work and healing even to feel safe enough to be present in your body, but it’s so worth it. 

For me, slow living is about taking tiny steps on this journey to trusting myself and allowing myself to be present in my body, knowing that this work may last a lifetime.

What is the philosophy of slow living?

At the heart of slow living is intentional living, which looks different for everyone. 

Typically though, advocates of a slow lifestyle recommend being in the present moment and making small changes to shift away from our fast-paced lifestyles to adopt rhythms that feel more grounding and relaxing to our frazzled nervous systems.

We want to focus on the important things and life’s simple pleasures, like spending time with loved ones, enjoying a good meal, or taking a walk in nature. 

Remember the present moment

Although these seem like small things, they’re really everything. We never get anything other than the present moment, and slow living invites us to make even the ordinary moments in our days a chance to recharge or connect with the things that matter to us. 

As you can imagine, slow living also invites us to shift our relationships with consumerism and capitalism.

Slow living posits that your value as a human is not determined by your income or your productivity. It invites us to make the most of the items that we have and shop intentionally, not for instant gratification.

These changes lead us to frugal living, simple living, minimalism, and sustainable living. Since everyone is different, you might be drawn to one of those areas over another.

brooke mcalary quote about mindfulness for this guide to slow living.

What slow living means to me

For me, slow living means healing. As someone who struggles with stress and burnout, slow living allows me to operate at a different pace. 

By gradually listening to my inner voice and body over time, I start to hear them more, and I’m able to make adjustments to my life and schedule based on my current level of energy and personal needs.

By working on healing myself, I’m able to find more balance in my life and relationships. I can take better care of my physical health, set boundaries around work and my relationships, and commit to being there for the people in my life. 

You can call this healing, self-regulation, mindfulness, intentional living, or embodiment, but they all come back to the same thing:

  • slowing down so you can hear yourself
  • living in the present moment
  • building a life around your values
fuzzy baby apples on a tree.

What are the benefits of slow living?

You can probably already imagine a few of the benefits that come from living a slower lifestyle.

  • Natural cycles of work and rest: When you stop focusing on your value as a person coming from your work, you can stop trying to be productive even in your downtime and can finally rest.
  • Reduced stress: Being mindful of your feelings and your body is a great way to improve your mental health and even reduce your stress and anxiety. We can take the time to focus on self-care, relaxation, and mindfulness, which can help us feel more centered and calm.
  • Improved well-being: Slow living encourages us to prioritize our health and well-being. By focusing on healthy habits, such as eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep, we can improve our physical and mental health.
  • Stronger connections: Slow living is all about meaningful connections – connection with ourselves, our loved ones, and the world around us. By taking the time to connect with others and our environment, we can build stronger relationships and a deeper sense of community.
  • Greater appreciation: When we slow down and take the time to savor life’s moments, we can develop a greater appreciation for the simple things in life. We can find joy in everyday activities, such as cooking, reading, or spending time in nature.
  • Reduced environmental impact: Slow living encourages us to be mindful of our impact on the environment. By consuming less, reducing waste, and living sustainably, we can reduce our carbon footprint and help protect the planet.

Living authentically

The most beautiful thing is that once you start pursuing things that excite you and feel calmer and more grounded, you start to see yourself unfolding even more.

You’re meeting all of your physical, social, and spiritual needs and living in a way that doesn’t give you a persistent feeling of dread or anxiety.

Gradually, step by step, you become the best version of yourself and craft a life you don’t want to escape from.

This is why I often say that slow living is the cure for the modern world. Through simple ways and small but profound lifestyle changes, you eventually realize you’re actually doing okay and begin to love your life.

What is slow living?

In a fast-paced world that always asks for more, slow living invites us to opt for less. With fewer distractions and moving targets, we can understand ourselves better and live a more meaningful life.

Principles of Slow Living: How to Incorporate Slow Living into Your Life

Slow living is not just a philosophy but a way of life.

Here are some of the ways you can incorporate a slower approach into your life. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and you’ll find yourself drawn to one aspect or another. That’s perfectly fine – follow what calls to you, and the rest will come up naturally.

Intentional Living

This is one of the most important parts of slow living: learning to live with intention.

To do this, you need to know what matters to you. 

Take an inventory of your values

The easiest way to do this is to start with an inventory of your values.

I explain in depth how to figure out what matters to you and how to identify your values in this post. 

I often recommend doing this during the winter solstice as it’s already a time of darkness and reflection, but you can do this any time of the year.

When you whittle down your values to the top 2 or 3, it becomes easier to know how to make other decisions in your life. 

For example, if you realize your family is your number one priority in life but you’ve been working long hours and come home mad every day, it might be time to find a job with less stress or set clear boundaries.

How often to set intentions

Your priorities will shift, but your key values should stay the same.

At least once a year, carve out some time to think about how you want to focus your energy. I love the idea of committing to community, but I often find that my inner voice tells me I need to focus on healing or peace instead.

It’s also okay to have different desires; the secret is to figure out which desires come from your inner voice, your highest and truest self, and which ones come from your worried, anxious mind.

printable slow living challenge 30 days.

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Simplicity and Decluttering

At first, I was drawn to simple living because I craved simple things. I wanted to focus on having less stuff and make the most of the items I do have. 

This often leads people to minimalism or at least decluttering to weed out excess stuff.

When you can slow down and be present, it’s easier to look at unnecessary items with clarity.

We buy things for so many reasons – we want to feel powerful, beautiful, or unstoppable. We want to look a certain way or tell a certain story based on how we decorate our houses or wear our clothes.

To live a simple life, we need to work through those latent desires hiding under our need to shop.

I created a workbook called Becoming a Conscious Consumer as a way to think through all the ways overspending and shopping show up in my life and to guide others through the same thought process.

It’s a really gentle way to shift how you relate to money and shopping, and it’s a powerful way to change that relationship starting today.

Like everything, it’s a process to make these changes, but it feels so much better when you realize that “stuff” doesn’t have much power of you anymore!

Unbusy yourself

How many of us are always busy? When you bump into an old friend, and they ask how you are, what’s the answer? For most people, it’s always, “I’m good! I’ve just been so busy!”

Busy isn’t a badge of honor.

Remember, you are lovable and worthy, just as you are. Your value is not related to how many things you get done, and there will never be enough time to do all the things you think you need to do.

Prompts to investigate your relationship with being busy

If you’re always on the go, try asking yourself these questions to get a better understanding of why you’re so busy.

  • Why are you busy all the time? 
  • Are you present and busy or are you just rushing through your to-do list?
  • What does being busy add to your life? What does it take away?
  • Is there something you’re avoiding by being busy?
  • What happens when you do nothing? 

One of the best ways you can simplify your life is to eliminate the unnecessary from your life, and that includes obligations and commitments.

handmade chive blossom butter in a white bowl with a wooden spoon.
This chive blossom butter recipe is a great way to slow down and pay attention to your senses.

Mindful Consumption

Although I partially explained this above, slow living is more than just not shopping. It’s about being mindful of what you consume.

That can include the food you eat, the clothing you buy, and the media and information you read.

Real Food

​As someone passionate about real food, I try to grow as much of my own food as possible, shop locally, preserve the harvest, and try to teach people how to cook from scratch and meal plan. That’s a calling deep in my heart, and I have hundreds of posts about it on my site.

Many people in the slow living community feel similarly, partially because slow living really came to life in the 1980s when Carlo Petrini started the Slow Food Movement to preserve and protect local foodways around the world.

Food, how people grow it, and how people prepare it means something, and it’s worth preserving.

We deserve more than fast food and prepackaged food. Slow food is about recognizing just how important food is and embracing the special foods that make each corner of the globe distinctly different.

 Everyone is different with this. Food is a complex issue that connects to our income, culture, dietary needs, health issues, and more.

However, the closer we get to cooking from scratch and eating at home, the better.

quote from carlo petrini about slow food.

Slow Fashion

Slow fashion is a response to fast fashion, which produces trendy clothes quickly to capitalize on people’s interest.

These products are poorly made with unsustainable materials and often unethical standards.

Then they’re shipped across the world using valuable fuel and resources. We buy them and use them for a brief period of time before they either fall apart, or we move on to the next trend.

Instead of that unsustainable cycle, slow fashion invites us to own less, but buy higher quality items that are made to last. 

I spent some time a couple of years ago setting up a capsule wardrobe (or at least the start of one). It made it so much easier to look put together, buy quality items, and feel confident in my appearance every day. 

Digital Minimalism

If you feel overwhelmed by the weight of the world or are constantly jumpy, rethink the media you’re consuming. 

Although I know many of us want to keep up with what’s happening around the world, you may want to limit it or source your news from a specific outlet or at a set day or time.

Limit social media and unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself or like you need to change to be loved (you don’t). 

Consider watching less TV or adjusting the types of shows you watch. I love suspenseful crime shows, but they leave me jumpy and give me restless sleep, so I know I shouldn’t really be watching them. I feel much better when I don’t watch TV anyway!

guide to slow living connection with nature view of a pond.

Connection with Nature

This probably should be at the top of this list because your relationship with nature is incredibly powerful.

I can’t underestimate it, at least for myself.

Nature helps you get back into your body and out of your head. I feel so much more mindful when I get some fresh air every day. That calmness tends to work its way into every part of my life.

Being in nature helps us remember that we are animals. Our bodies know what to do in nature, even if we don’t intellectually. They know how to move, attend to sights and sounds, and react to threats.

There is an endless amount of healing that can be done in nature. I recommend trying to spend time outside every day, whether that’s just soaking up some sun with your morning coffee, going for a walk at your local park, or bringing natural elements into your home.

Read: 7 Powerful Ways to Live with the Seasons Any Day of the Year

Mindful Movement

A key part of living an intentional life is getting back into your body. There’s no better way to do that than through movement. 

It doesn’t have to be a lot. Try yoga, stretching, or walking. Slow movement, like tai chi or qi gong, can be especially revealing.

Focus on the sensations in your body and notice when your body craves more movement. 

I find it really helpful to think of my body as an animal, like my cat or dog. I know that my little Labradoodle puppy needs to move her body.

She is unhappy until she gets to run and jump and chase the ball around the yard until she’s exhausted. I can see that need in how she carries herself all day long.

When I imagine my body like a pet, it’s easier to notice how I was in a better mood after I took that walk or that it seemed like I really liked being in the sun. Those little moments of awareness make it easier to add gentle movement every day.

Mindful Eating

Food is such a powerful force in our lives. I’m the first to admit that this is a tough thing for me!

As an emotional eater who finds comfort in food, sometimes it’s hard to slow down and savor each bite. It’s more about eating as fast as possible, trying to soothe an unpleasant emotion. 

Like other parts of slow living, this is something that takes time and work. 

Simple Ways to Eat Mindfully Every Day

  • Practice setting down your fork between meals.
  • Serve yourself one portion of something instead of eating from the bag.
  • Make a moment out of the meal by lighting a candle or setting the table.

But when you slow down, it’s easier to understand why you are eating and change course if your goal isn’t to nourish your body.

It also helps you be aware of how the food makes you feel.

When you realize that morning cup of coffee makes you jittery all day, you might start having half a serving or try going without it.

It’s about being curious with yourself and giving yourself the time and space to explore those habits and cravings. 

Mindful Relationships

As adults, many of us try to cultivate positive relationships with people in our lives. We want to be good spouses and siblings and parents, but we often find ourselves triggered by this issue or that.

Plus, we’re distracted beyond belief, glued to our phones even during special times in our lives.

Make time to be fully present with the people in your life. Put the phone away or make a rule about no phones at certain times.

Go out of your way to spend extended periods of time with the people you love the most. That can be a phone call or a Zoom call, or taking a trip to visit a beloved family member.

Plus, when we make time, it’s easier to show up as our best selves, not the rushed, frantic, short-tempered version of ourselves trying to make do in a fast-paced world. 

purple dead nettle guide to slow living.

Ecological Stewardship

Although not everyone in the slow living movement values this tenet in the same ways, most of us feel drawn to the natural world, and want to honor its resource and reduce our environmental impact.

This looks different to different people depending on where we live, our budget, our body sizes, etc., but it feels good to live within your means and opt for higher quality items.

You’ll quickly notice a lot of posts on my site about going zero waste, making the most of what you have, and non-toxic items that are safe for you and your family.

I’m especially drawn to sustainable living and have many tips and resources to help you enjoy a sustainable lifestyle.

calming morning routine cup of coffee in a garden what is slow living.

How do I start living a slow lifestyle?

Slow living is a lifestyle choice that prioritizes quality over quantity. It’s about taking the time to savor life’s simple pleasures, like a home-cooked meal or a walk in nature.

Slow living encourages us to be mindful and intentional in our actions, rather than rushing through life on autopilot.

Practical Ways to Live Slow Everyday

If you’re looking for a few ways to incorporate this slowness into your daily routine, these are some of my favorite ways to slow down every day.

1. Identify your values.

Take the time for self-reflection. Learn what really matters to you and make incremental changes to shift your life around them.

2. Craft a grounding morning routine.

Give yourself time to wake up in a way that works for you. Tune out distractions, journal, meditate, connect with nature, or move your body.

3. Eat real food. 

Start winnowing fast food and junk food out of your life. Focus on real, whole foods. 

4. Say no to things that drain you.

Part of living a harmonious life is redrawing boundaries around your energy and needs. Not everything deserves your attention right now.

5. Make the most of the items you have. 

Challenge yourself to darn, clean, or repair the items you already own to make the most of them.

6. Spend quality time with the people you love.

Tune out the distractions and spend time listening to and connecting with the people you love.

7. Set limits with technology.

Turn off push notifications, put your phone on airplane mode, limit screen time, and uninstall any apps that drain you.

8. Pursue hobbies.

Make time for creativity and problem-solving in your everyday life. I recommend these slow living hobbies to get you started.

9. Enjoy your free time. 

Instead of constantly working or cooking or cleaning, give yourself time to do nothing. Watch the trees, listen to the birds, and feel your body.

10. Read slow living books. 

There are fantastic authors out there who talk about the different components of slow living and will offer plenty of new perspectives for your own journey.

11. Spend time in nature.

Make a conscious decision to spend time in nature every day, whether that’s a quick walk, gardening, or something else.

12. Declutter.

Start removing things from your life that don’t add joy or that take away valuable time.

13. Move your body.

Find any movement that feels good. Try walking, stretching, or even just soaking up the sun. Notice the sensations in your body and be curious about them.

14. Focus on one task at a time.

Part of slow living is learning how to focus on things again. It’s a process to train your attention to focus on one task at a time and stop multitasking.

15. Meditate or journal.

It can be incredibly powerful to look inward and take time to cultivate peace and inner-awareness.

pin about the beginners guide to slow living.

Did this guide to slow living help?

This is just the start! There is so much to unlock from slow living, but it’s best to start with just one or two areas and move from there. It’s worth it to take the time.

Just remember there’s no one right way to live slowly – once you get started, your inner voice will help you with the rest.

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