“Technology has advanced our lives in certain ways, but then it holds us back in many others.”
– Vicki Robin, New York Times best-selling author.
With social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, a click of a button is all it takes to glance into our friends’ and acquaintances’ lives. The constant stream of posts and images of smiles, fancy watches, tailor-made outfits, well-plated meals from the trendiest cafes remind us that we could have them too. We could be happy – if only we worked harder; if only we had more money. We all have 24 hours a day. But with constant pressure from society and perhaps ourselves, we make sacrifices to satisfy that innate hunger, maximising time to its fullest potential. We forgo sleep to devote more time to the grind. We sacrifice family dinners for meeting with clients, while grabbing McDonalds to go. And we forget to pause for a moment and ask ourselves, “how does my life feel?”
Does fast living necessarily make us feel better? Investment banker Andy disagrees. His 14-hour work days had led him to seek food as a form of solace, binge eating to obesity. Andy is not alone, a Jobstreet survey in 2012 found that approximately 9 in 10 employees work beyond official hours. In fact, Singaporeans spend more time (46 hours weekly) in the workplace, compared to the global average of 38 hours. Furthermore, other related health problems such as insomnia, depression and hypertension plague young professionals. Is money really worth the sacrifice of our own body and well-being?
Fortunately, Andy decided to make a change and quit his job. “It was difficult because I will have to give up a $10,000 monthly salary. But for now, I think having more time for myself and my family is more important,” he admitted. Making a change for the better does not necessarily mean having to go through drastic means such as Andy’s. Through the practice of Slow Living, we all can lead more fulfilling and happier lives as well.
What is Slow Living?
Slow Living is all about “less-is-more”, focusing on the quality of life. It is the recognition that being busy does not equate to being productive. It is about living at your own pace instead of being caught up in the rat race. It is about spending time on what truly matters and fulfil your well-being. Most importantly, Slow Living is about practicing self-love. Authors Beth Meredith and Eric Storm summarize slow living as follows: Slow Living means structuring your life around meaning and fulfillment.
The concept of Slow Living originated in Rome, 1986, as a countenance to fast food. Italian journalist Carlo Petrini staged a five-hour pasta meal with his supporters to oppose the opening of a McDonald’s branch in a city where dining is an experience meant to be savoured slowly. He also begin the International Slow Food Movement, advocating locally-sourced and sustainable ingredients to be consumed in the company of loved ones. Realising that the nurturing and feel-good aspects of Slow Food can be applied in various other aspects of life, the art of Slow Food eventually expanded to new branches such as Slow Fashion, Slow Design and even Slow Relationships.
Principles of Slow Living
Savour the moment
While watching a beautiful sunset with our loved ones, our current day primary instinct would be to whip out our smartphones to take a photo. We switch through filters on VSCOCam, thinking about what is the perfect filter to match our Instagram feeds. We tilt the phone ever-so-slightly, adjusting the shot’s angle. We snap so many photos; we become so engrossed in capturing the moment that we sometimes forget to just live in the present. The next time you’re experiencing life, set aside technology for a while. Pause and embrace the beautiful moment unfolding right in front of your eyes.
Shave the clutter
We often associate being busy with being productive. Stop and think – how many tasks that you are preoccupied with truly matter to you? Studies have shown that multitasking actually reduces productivity and focus on each task. So stop trying to do a million things. Commit to one thing at a time and do it well!
Spend time on what truly matters
According to happiness expert Richard Carlson, the most important question to ask ourselves in life is this: “Will this matter a year from now?”.
“Whether it be an argument with your spouse, child, or boss, a mistake, a lost opportunity, a lost wallet, a work-related rejection, or a sprained ankle, chances are, a year from now you aren’t going to care. It will be one more irrelevant detail in your life. (…) Now, rather than using up my energy feeling angry and overwhelmed, I can use it instead on spending time with my wife and children or engaging in creative thinking.” -Richard Carlson
Time is limited. With only 24 hours a day, there is an innate desire to maximise its full potential. But the past is gone, the future is not here yet, and the present moment is all we have. If we focus on making the present the best it can be and practice that as a continuum, most of the stress falls away. Happiness arises and we become more in tune with the flow of time and events, instead of becoming slaves to them. As Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”