We live in a world in which it almost constantly feels like there's too much to do, in too little time. When it not infrequently dawns on us that we haven't taken a deep, calming breath for hours. Watching the e-mails cascade into our inbox, it sometimes feels like a miracle that we're able to step away from the screen at all, never mind to look up and see blue sky or trees or a smile.
All of which means that in 2019, living more slowly very much has to be a conscious decision – but one which is entirely necessary, for our mental (and physical) wellbeing. Trust me: if you feel that 2018 hurtled by, it's almost certainly because you didn't 'get your slow on'. So I'm delighted to have been asked by Slow Ageing to share my own 'secrets of slow'.
I start each day with 10 minutes of meditation with the Calm app. Often I wake up thinking: 'I don't have time to meditate today'. But the reality is: I don't have time not to. It gives me clarity, centres me and most definitely lives up to the 'Calm' name. And frankly, any meditation app which offers a Winnie the Pooh series of Daily Calm sessions inspired by the characters of that book is going to press my button. You can have your thoughts provoked by Tigger, on authenticity. Eeyore on (what else?) pessimism. Or Rabbit on Busyness – the perfect 'slow-down' meditation. (I also very much enjoy the Body Scan option, which simply and almost effortlessly enables you to become more present in the moment.)
I walk wherever and whenever I can. Walking is the pace we evolved to move at, which is why it feels so darned good – and in my case, also happens to be when I come up with most of my solutions to problems and challenges. Of course it's impractical to get all the way across a city on foot, but I consciously try to organise my appointments so that I'm not hurtling from A to B but can instead build towards the 10,000 steps a day which are my goal. (Current annual tally: 10,900+ a day, so I'm doing OK. But as with any habit, it's important not to beat ourselves up when we don't hit a target – and just try again tomorrow.)
I'm a fully paid-up 'Slow Food-ie'. The Slow Food movement began in Italy, as a reaction against a McDonalds which was proposed to be built in the city of Bra, in Piedmont. There are groups all over the world, which focus on the idea of eating locally, communally, as organically as possible – all of which we try to do at home, as the antidote to our 'fast food' culture. Food's very high on the priority list in our house, and I tend to spend Sunday batch-cooking stews and pies and soups so there's always good food to hand on busy weeknights, without having to grab a takeaway or something packaged. I'm rarely happier than when at my stove, actually – and rather appropriately, my new favourite cookbook is Gizzie Erskine's Slow: Food Worth Taking Time Over. Her confit garlic could convert anyone to slower eating.
I digitally detox on holiday. No e-mail. No checking social media, either. It's hard, but it's worth it. Without the constant tug of the inbox, there really is time to stop and smell the roses (or the frangipani, if you're lucky!) I have friends who try and ‘stay on top of’ their e-mail while on vacation – but for me, quite simply, that is not a rest. (And equally simply, there is no such thing as ‘staying on top of your e-mail’. Full stop. It’s a losing battle.)
Last thing at night, I follow a little ritual. I learned this from someone years ago, and I do it every night: after I've massaged my face and rinsed away the day's grime and make-up, I take a pause and imagine the cares of the day swishing away as the water drains. Any negative energy or frazzled-ness is simply washed away with it – and I swear it helps me sleep better.
Jo Fairley is co-founder of Green & Black's and author/editor with Sarah Stacey of the Beauty Bible series of books and beautybible.com.