How do you start slow living? What is slow living? Here's answers to both and what happened when I tried slow living for a year!

I Tried Slow Living for a Year. Here’s what I learned.

The slow living lifestyle is becoming more and more of a trend these days, and without realizing it, I had gotten myself swept up into the lifestyle before I even knew there was a movement happening. Even though I had started practicing minimalism and living with less, I still found myself doing most things with an underlying sense of hurry and rush. When I stopped frantically shopping, I went straight into frantic decluttering. It was as if my body had been programed for hustle. Meanwhile, I couldn’t shake the messages I was getting from spiritual teachers that said the key to getting the life you want is in slowing down, being still and the doing less. But, how do you do less? Even though I wasn’t sure what I was doing, I figured I had nothing to lose, so I may as well give doing less a try. Here’s how I tried slow living for a year and what I learned.

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What is slow living?

When I first heard the term slow living, I was really excited, because there was finally a term for the lifestyle I had been practicing. However, I understand that a lot of people still might be unsure about what the slow living movement is, so I wanted to break it down for you.

I like this definition of slow living from Groov:

Slow Living is a movement where people decide to live a more balanced, meaningful life through slowing things down and appreciating both the world around them and what they have.

-Groov

As with anything in life, there are different types of slow living lifestyles and ways of doing things. Some examples of slow living lifestyles are:

  • Living off the grid, growing your own food
  • Practicing a more minimalist lifestyle
  • Quitting a high-stress job for a high passion job

It’s actually kind of tough to niche down slow living, because in reality anyone could begin practicing it no matter where they live or what they do for a living. In fact, I’ve come to find slow living is more in the mind than anything else.

I share some of the key practices of slow living in the The Gentle Art of Letting Shit Go eBook because so many of us are so adapted to the hustle that we aren’t even sure where to begin when it comes to slowing down and living more intentionally.

Renee Benes The Fun Sized Life Blog - The Gentle Art of Letting Shit Go - A minimalist lifestyle guide

Downsizing and living with less

In 2016 our family downsized our house by 2,000 finished square feet after I had begun applying minimalism to my life. While our downsize definitely provided less stuff for our family to maintain and created the option for us to be more flexible in our work, I wouldn’t define this time as slow living.

As I mentioned before, my transition from shopaholic to minimalist may have seemed healthy on the outside, but was still done with a lot of anxiety bubbling below the surface.

Basically I went from processing my emotions through shopping to processing my emotions through decluttering my stuff. It wasn’t until I finally got to the end of the clutter that I had to face the fact that I had a lot of emotional baggage that I was running from.

If you want more guidance on how to intentionally declutter your life, be sure to grab The Gentle Art of Letting Shit Go.

Forced slow down

When we don’t take the time to slow down in life and learn to be present, I have come to find that life will force these opportunities upon us. For me that started after I lost my step dad, Brian. I lost my dad at the age of 19 and at age 32 I lost a second dad. This sent me into a downward emotional spiral that left me so distraught I couldn’t get out of bed most days.

During my time of grieving, I got good at feeling all the pain and fear I experienced after the loss of both my dads. After a few months, I was amazed to find that my heart had seemingly burst open. It was as if I shed all of the pain I had been carrying around with me and was finally able to breathe for the first time.

More than anything this taught me that sitting in stillness, and allowing myself to feel all my emotions, even the bad ones, was actually a really good thing.

I didn’t want to fall back into old hustle habits and methods for distracting myself, so I decided to get intentional about slowing down and being OK with uncomfortable emotions or feelings. Read 10 Signs That You Are Burnt Out and Need to Recharge

The Do Less Movement

As I began to come out of my grief coma, I started listening to and reading more spiritual books that talked frequently about the easy flow we are all meant to have in life.

These teachings were filled with quotes about how nothing in nature needs to hurry. There were thought provoking ideas about how we always get where we’re going in life if we simply allow the river to pull us downstream, rather than fighting the current.

For a good portion of my life, I thought I had been doing this. In fact, I had even considered myself to be a free spirit — with high functioning anxiety and a never ending belief that struggle was the only way to succeed in life.

Finally, I decided I would try to do less, like these teachers were saying I should, even though I didn’t know what the hell that would look like.

I tried slow living for a year, here is what I learned

Shutting down the hustle voice

I decided the best way to learn to slow down would be to keep listening more to my inner knowing. That gut instinct that had been trying to talk to me my whole life was still there, but most of the time my brain insisted on arguing with it.

My slow living experiment would require me to tell my brain to sit down and shut up so that I could better listen to my intuition.

If all of these spiritual teachers were saying that everything in nature showed up knowing exactly what to do, then maybe I knew exactly what to do too, I just needed to learn to listen to my knowing.

How do you listen to your intuition?

Are you ready for an idea that will go against everything you’ve ever believed to be OK or true? I hope so, because here it is.

In order to better listen to my intuition, I allowed myself to be guided by whatever felt…fun.

I don’t mean the kind of fun where going out for drinks feels like fun, or spending all my money feels like fun. I blew past those surface level ideas of fun and #yolo living long ago.

What I mean is, after I would send the kids off to school, and my Doing Brain would say, better get to work, you should clean the house, stay busy… I would listen to that little, much quieter Knowing Voice inside me that whispered, I really need to pause for a minute.

For the first time in my life I gave myself permission to sit in stillness with a cup of coffee.

To read a book.

To watch pointless TV.

To take a nap in the middle of the day! (Can you imagine?)

Basically, I worked to locate my inner compass and then I got really good at following where it lead me despite what the Doing Brain was saying.

Getting comfortable being comfortable

If you are a recovering hustler like me, you might know just how uncomfortable it can be to be comfortable! Even though I work from home and am my own boss, I still couldn’t shut up that voice in my head that was telling me to do more, push harder, earn more, achieve more

More, more, more, harder, tougher, stronger.

Do you have any idea how much anxiety can come from thoughts that force you to feel that you need to be in a constant state of struggle?

When these are the messages we’ve allowed ourselves to believe for the majority of our life, it can be really hard shutting them out and sitting in total stillness with no agenda.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve all started to learn that work is pointless if you’re not getting paid. That rest is for the weak and that sleep is for when you’re dead.

Call me crazy but I can only imagine that these types of mentalities lead us to reaching the end of our days feeling like we rushed through all of it.

That’s why I had to learn to get comfortable with being comfortable when all of my programming told me that being content, or being comfortable was not OK.

Alarm bells went off in my head telling me I was being lazy or negligent or that if other people were working, I should be working too!

This kind of mentality goes hand-in-hand with the belief that we should over-stuff our bellies because people in other countries are starving. — We will never eat enough ourselves to fill the belly of another just like we will never over-work ourselves enough to lighten the burdens someone else bears.

The results

After one year of doing less, and practicing the slow living lifestyle…I hate to report to you that…I still have so much to learn. The hustle is strong in this one.

In all honesty, I was hoping I could report back magical results that I had somehow lost weight without working out, and made a million dollars without leaving my couch. You know, those big attention grabbing headlines we all read that make us feel inadequate about ourselves? I thought I would have one of those.

The truth is, I don’t have one of those big, impressive headlines, but I will say this…

I am significantly happier, calmer, and slower to anger than I have been in my previous 3 decades of life.

When things around me become frantic, chaotic, and noisy, I have stillness inside.

When a new challenge presents itself, I no longer panic, or feel the need to inflate my ego. I just show up, do the thing, and move on with little effort exerted.

Life is easier. So much easier.

And my income did increase even though I only work a few hours a day.

My life feels on purpose, my work feels on purpose and like it’s my own (maybe for the first time).

Will I be continuing slow living?

You couldn’t pay me to go back to fast living and I don’t know if I could even if I tried.

I mean, who in their right mind would welcome rage, anger, chaos, and anxiety back into their lives with open arms? Not this girl.

My entire DNA feels as if it has been reset, reprogrammed to chill, and it is absolutely amazing.

I can exert less energy, be kinder to myself, and somehow get more work done than ever before.

The bottom line is, I will be continuing slow living forever, and ever, amen.

How to try slow living for yourself

If you want to get started learning how to practice slow living for yourself, here are my top steps for getting started.

  • Recognize feelings of internal chaos, and take deep breaths when they arrive – My entire family has taken note of this practice and I am fairly certain they all take a step backward because they know it means I’m trying not to lose my cool.
  • Start by following what feels fun – You will still have obligations and requirements in life, but in many circumstances you have the opportunity to choose which options brings you the most peace. Choose those options more.
  • Get comfortable being comfortable – Learn to shut out the voice that tells you to hustle, push, and hurry and give yourself permission to slow down and be still.
  • Do it your way – Slow living for me might mean reading more, napping more, and taking more walks. That doesn’t have to work for you. Perhaps it means longer showers, watching one more episode, ordering takeout instead of cooking.

My hope for you is that you find that makes your soul feel slow and at peace. Remember, this is your birthright, and you can trust that following your fun is exactly what you were born to do.

To get total support and guidance on simplifying everything in your life, grab The Gentle Art of Letting Shit Go eBook.

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How do you start slow living? What is slow living? Here's answers to both and what happened when I tried slow living for a year!

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