Slow Living: How We’ve Learnt To Embrace a Simpler, More Fulfilling Lifestyle

Slow Living: How We’ve Learnt To Embrace a Simpler, More Fulfilling Lifestyle

Living on a narrowboat changes you. Being surrounded by water and nature, it’s a lifestyle that’s naturally calming. It’s almost the antithesis of the busyness of modern life. The canals move in their own timezone, it’s more mellow and teaches you to slow down.

Jack and I moved aboard our first houseboat in 2019 after craving a life that felt more real and more fulfilling. I can’t emphasise enough how it has impacted our lives and our perspectives on the world. For so long, we’re taught we need to work as much as possible, live the hustle culture life and buy lots of things to make us happy. But really, none of that matters.

Since moving onto the water, we’ve embraced a different way of living. Slowing down and appreciating the small pleasures in the everyday. It’s given us the freedom to spend more time doing the things we love such as foraging and cooking.

“The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections–with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds”Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed

Whilst boat life and the slow living movement go hand in hand with each other, you don’t need to live on a boat or hide away in a cabin in the woods to be able to take a step back and embrace a more fulfilling lifestyle.

We can see so many benefits from the slow living philosophy that we’d like to share what slow living means for us, as well as five tips for how you can start to bring parts of the slow living movement into your everyday life.

What is Slow Living?

At its core, slow living is about being present in the moment. It’s about simplifying your life to what is important to you; letting go of what is unnecessary, and focusing on what truly matters.

So much of life is about rushing around to get on to the next task of the day, that we forget to enjoy the small things in life, and fail to be present in the moment. Slow living starts with taking stock to address what is important to you and finding ways to prioritise these parts of your life that give you the most satisfaction.

It might be spending more time in nature, enjoying home-cooked meals, or long quiet evenings with family and friends.

“Many a man thinks he is buying pleasure, when he is really selling himself to it.” –Benjamin Franklin

Slow living is not about being lazy or unambitious, but rather about being intentional with your time, and enjoying each moment.

The Benefits of Living Slow

Slow living brings mindfulness to as much of our lives as possible, a practice that has gained huge traction in the last few years because of its links to improved mental well-being.

By taking the time to slow down and be present in the moment, we become more aware of our thoughts, feelings and our surroundings. It’s as if your mind shifts to seeing yourself as truly connected to the world outside, as one, rather than living individually and separately from the natural world. It’s fulfilling and grounding.

Slow living and mindfulness are linked to reducing stress and anxiety. When we’re constantly rushing from one job to another our bodies and minds can become overwhelmed, which can lead to increased stress levels. By slowing down and simplifying our lives, this stress can reduce and so we have better focus and overall health and well-being. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) even recommends mindfulness-based therapies as a way to treat depression.

For us, slowing down, and living in the moment has given us a great feeling of contentment. Life feels rich and fulfilled. We’re by no means money rich, but we’re happiness rich.

Five Tips for Bringing Slow Living into Your Life

Here are a few of the things we do which encourage a slow-living mindset that you can bring into your everyday life:

  1. Spend time in nature. We make sure we spend at least an hour a day outside, going for a walk. There’s something incredibly grounding about spending time in nature. As we watch the birds flit about above, and see the plants change through the seasons – we remember how we’re a small part of the world that’s ticking on around us. The stresses and worries which sometimes creep into our thoughts can instantly lessen. Whether it’s going for a hike in the woods or simply sitting in a park, spending time outdoors can be a great way to slow down and connect with the world around you.
  2. Enjoy home-cooked meals. We love to cook from scratch and we set aside time for the process. Food is a massive part of life, and so it should be enjoyable. Wherever possible, we get our fresh food from the greengrocer or farmers market and our bread we collect from the bakery – we make the full process of buying ingredients, to prepping meals, to eating, an enjoyable ritual. Instead of eating out or relying on ready meals or processed foods, try cooking from scratch at home more often. This can be a great way to slow down and enjoy the process of cooking. Eating well and avoiding processed foods is also better for your gut, which recent studies show to have a massive impact on mental well-being.

    Using a weekly veg box scheme like Abel & Cole is a great way to get organic and seasonal veg delivered to your door to inspire you to get cooking more at home. Click here to see what they’re all about and order your first box (they do great offers for new customers too!)

  3. Turn everyday tasks into rituals. It’s easy to rush through everyday tasks like making your morning coffee or taking off your make-up before heading to bed. But try and slow down for at least one task you normally rush through, be present for the different stages of the task and you can bring a rhythm to your day. Turning tasks into enjoyable rituals is a way of being more present, enjoying the moment, and bringing mindfulness into your life.
  4. Simplify your diary. If your calendar is packed with meetings and commitments, seeing you rush around every day with all your free time taken up, it might be a good idea to allocate one evening to yourself to rest up and enjoy your home. When we have weekends on end packed up with things to do, we start to feel unsettled and tired! We try to keep time free to spend together, just onboard the boat, to enjoy our home. This might mean saying no to some things or simply prioritising the activities that matter the most to you.
  5. Declutter & Buy Less. Living on the boat means we have limited space, and so naturally, we can’t buy that much. But it’s more than that, by living amongst nature, we have a heightened sense of living sustainably, and as such we don’t buy what we don’t need. Living in a cluttered space can contribute to a messy mind – by simplifying our possessions, we’re clearing space in our minds too. It can feel like quite a huge step, but if you take a step back and look with fresh eyes at the commercialised world we live in – you can start to step away from the feeling of needing to buy “things” that aren’t important to us.  

For us, slow living enables us to a life that is richer, more wholesome and more fulfilled. It’s about making time for what truly brings happiness to your life. By slowing down, living in the moment, and appreciating the world around us, we can live a much more content and full life.

Books we’d recommend on slow living:

Seeking Slow: Reclaim Moments of Calm in Your Day by Melanie Barnes

In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honoré

Slow Living: The Secrets to Slowing Down and Noticing the Simple Joys Anywhere by Helena Woods

Kinfolk Wilderness by John Burns

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Jack Miles
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