Are you so busy these days you can barely hear yourself think? Too time-starved to read this article? Just stop for a moment and take a very deep breath.
Why are we rushing about like blue-a***d flies? We have machines to do our chores, we have transport to whisk us from A to B - in theory, we should have more time on our hands.
Of course, we have to work and earn money to survive – some of us have two jobs and kids to juggle, too. But that’s surely an argument against filling our spare time with judgemental to-do lists, scrolling and comparing our lives with others. And what about faking busy experiences to post on social media, buying things hoping they will make us feel better, feeling pressurised by all the Netflix shows we haven’t watched… you get the point.
Slow living is a reaction against people who feel that being busy is a good thing. You know the saying the Devil makes work for idle hands? It has become ingrained in our society: those who work hard are good, those who take their time are lazy.
But, as various philosophers have pointed out, being busy is closer to madness than goodness. For counsellors and psychotherapists, a busy client is someone avoiding something bigger: I must keep busy or I’ll realise how miserable and empty my life/marriage/job is.
“A fast approach tends to be a superficial one,” writes Carl Honoré in In Praise of Slow. “But when you slow down, you begin to engage more deeply with whatever it is you are doing. You’re also forced to confront what’s happening inside you – which is one of the reasons why I think we find it so hard to slow down.”
But slow down we must – make time to think about what really matters and what we can do to make our lives more meaningful and beautiful.
What is slow living?
The Slow Living Movement really began with the Slow Food movement in the 1980s, slow cookers and organic fresh ingredients replacing the speedy microwave and processed fast food. SLOW meant Sustainable, Local, Organic, Whole.
Slow grew into a lifestyle choice with the popularity of Hygge (taking time to connect with friends, family and home), Lagom (the Swedish concept of less is more) and minimalism (same thing with more style) - all reactions to mass consumerism, overspending on stuff we don’t need, instead shopping sustainably, with intention and being mindful of the effects of our choices.
Slow living is not about giving up our careers and social life but being more present and aware as we go through each day – it is being more alive and less, well, busy for the sake of it.
The need to slow down
A 2018 study in the UK found that almost 75 percent of the population felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. The glorification of busy-ness in our society – the idea that being busy is linked to our self-worth – leads to stress, burnout and a lack of meaning or purpose in life. Our haste to consume and be productive has also had a hugely damaging effect on the environment.
There is a strong case for slowing down, being more mindful and connected and to take the time to revisit our true purpose. What are you really here to do? What matters to you most?
You can still have a fulfilling life without being busy: it’s just that your diary will contain things you love doing rather than things you are afraid to miss out on.
How to embrace Slow Living
Spas are the perfect places to embrace slow living’s concepts. Indeed, if the office is the shrine to busy-ness, a spa is its antidote.
1. Make time. In slow living, time is the most valuable currency. Yes, time is often the preserve of those rich enough to take time off, who don’t have to juggle several jobs and childcare. But any of us can make some me-time – whether it’s reading a book, going for a walk or booking a spa treatment.
Ditch the Netflix binge and book a five-hour Starlight Spa at Rudding Park (below). If you do anything slowly it should be sipping Prosecco in a warm pool on a rooftop, gazing at the stars while pondering universal truths, no?
2. Get to know yourself. We spend so much time tuning into technology, information and the outside world, but we really need to make time to tune into ourselves. Becoming self-aware is a natural by-product of meditation, which the wellness experts unanimously agree we should all practice every day.
Mindful Spa: Book a Floatation Pod at Whatley Manor. If you are time starved, this one-hour float is a deep dive into meditation sending you into an REM state allowing you to tune into your inner self.
3. Eat healthy, locally sourced food. You want the distance between the source of your grub and the fork to be as small as possible. It’s not only healthier but takes the pressure off those few remaining HGV drivers and helps keep CO2 omissions low.
Slow Food Spa: Chewton Glen – the food here is grown in their own kitchen gardens, or sourced locally, and is delicious. Book into a tree house, wallow in their luxury spa and savour the flavours.
4. Do what is essential. As author Greg McKeown writes in his bestseller Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, living an essential life is about saying no to the non-essential and focusing on what matters. He cites a lot of successful business CEOs that use this mindset to be successful –even Bill Gates takes a day off to read a book.
Essentialist Spa:Weavers’ House Spa at The Swan at Lavenham, Suffolk. If you feel spa overwhelm in super-spas with too much choice, head to this bijou spa in a back-in-time Tudor village. You have a small hot tub, sauna and steam room, leaving time for a long, indulgent treatment that will help you totally slow down.
5. Find meaning. Why are you here? How can your life be more meaningful? These are not questions we can ponder on while grabbing a coffee, texting and making a call while running late for a meeting. You need to create space. You also need to not focus on the questions, but allow yourself to daydream, play, explore, listen, debate and... think. When was the last time you followed a thought or idea all the way to the end without being interrupted?
Spa for thought. Book into The Source Wellness and Spa at Saunton Sands (below) and gaze at miles of empty sea and sky from the top floor terrace.