Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
2 Aug

The Pleasures of Slow Living

We all live it or live with it to some extent – our society’s obsession with speed. Whether it’s with omnipresent traffic, constant deadlines, or crammed schedules, too many of us spend too much time running or overrun. The pace itself can over time become a lens for life, our focus in constant erratic motion. In the cursory sweeps of our day, we miss out on the nuanced textures of life – the sensory pleasures of a good meal, the subtle changes in our growing child’s face, the quiet beauty of a weekend morning, the warm connection with a partner or friend. What do we do when we find ourselves caught in an unsustainable momentum? The answer for some is an internationally growing – and diversely focused – movement known as slow living.

Today experts tell us that runaway stress has us teetering on the verge of a public health crisis with three-quarters of Americans reporting they “experience stress at levels that exceed what they define as healthy.” Undoubtedly, our obsession with speed contributes to this trend. We’re taking on more than we can reasonably process. We’re doing more and experiencing less.

One of the central voices of the slow living movement, Carl Honoré, argues our society is caught in an ever escalating “arms race” of speed, and we’re all paying the consequences. In one of the movement’s seminal books, In Praise of Slowness, Honoré illuminates a sad reality shaped by everything from fast food to “one-minute bedtime stories” as well as research on parents who spend twice as much time on email as they do on playtime with their children, workers who face burnout in their twenties and thirties, and doctors whose minimal time with patients causes them to miss pertinent if not critical information. Our addiction to speed, Honoré warns, is undermining our personal relationships, our societal civility, our individual fulfillment, and physical health.

Speed in this sense is more than a velocity, as slow living proponents explain. It morphs sooner or later into a personal and collective mindset. It becomes the rationalization behind all manner of deleterious choices. From a society standpoint, for example, it can be relying on “fast” farming methods (e.g. CAFOs, GMOs) that produce short term profits with long term consequences. On a personal level, it can encompass all of the games we play with ourselves to stay above water like eating quick instead of nourishing food, neglecting fitness and play, using stimulants to get through another afternoon, giving up sleep, and multitasking our way through each day. In our attempts to meet the most immediate obligations, we miss filling our most essential needs.

Beyond the logistical strategies and short-term fixes, there’s a better way, say slow living advocates. Slow living, according to its proponents, is predominantly about the attention and intentionality we bring to the spheres of life. It’s about living one’s values and giving out time and attention accordingly. Slow living as it exists today grew out of the slow food movement, which began in Italy during the 1980s with a call to focus on the sources and experience of food. The broader scope of the movement today reflects the getting back to basics ideal behind slow food. Then it was about supporting regional food, traditional cooking, and and the personal and social pleasures of eating. Today in the various and sundry offshoots of slow living (e.g. slow parenting, slow design, slow travel, slow money, slow education, and slow health), it can mean everything from seeking out complementary and alternative therapies to working (and living on) less, from observing “secular sabbaths” from technology to savoring the pleasures of slow sex.

Experience tells us that slow activities and a slower pace make for a more relaxing experience. People everywhere take up “slow hobbies” like knitting or wood carving (even if they never thought of them in this light). We enjoy the quieting influence of an ambling stroll at night. We relish the slow and sensory feast of a big holiday dinner.

Yet, there’s science to support the call to decelerate. Long, slow low-level aerobic workouts, for example, are correlated with everything from improved memory and increase longevity to reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. The Body by Science strength training protocol, in which loads are lifted at an extremely slow rate, can result in greater muscle gain for some people and can help diversify a strength training regimen. “Slow agriculture” that raises livestock with biologically appropriate feeds (e.g. grass grazing) and grows crops without the use of the synthetic pesticides make for a more nourishing (and less toxic) food supply. Activities that induce the quiet state of mental flow can ease symptoms of anxiety and challenge us in positive, healthy ways.

To advocates, the crux of slow living refuses quantification. Living slowly ultimately means living deeply. Slow travel, for example, is both a lesson in its own right and a metaphor for the movement. There’s something missed in hitting the postcard sites of a city we travel to and then moving on to the next destination. We have the photo memento for our collection, but we leave relatively unchanged. Committing to a single destination for as much time as our vacation allows gives us the chance to delve into the culture of a place – to experience the subtler but more telling characteristics of a locale. We meet the people, hear the stories, feel the communal rhythm. With time and attention, we encounter a place and let its influence permeate us. We return home different, richer for the journey. Slow movement advocates talk about the importance of incubation, that rich period in which the influence of an experience synthesizes with self. Time and mental space is critical for this absorption. Slow living – in all its spheres – seeks above all to cultivates a reflection and nurturance our immediate gratification culture often eschews. Proponents say it calls us to commit our time and passion to what feels most natural and life-giving.

How do I see the connection between slow living and Primal living? I think slow living on some level reclaims what is natural in human relations, basic sustenance, and life balance. Though I might suggest a more worthy slow food ritual than bread baking, I’m won over to the overall concept. Contrary as I am, I appreciate an effort to challenge conventional thinking.

More than that, however, I like how slow living in many respects brings us closer to some of our evolutionary patterns. Sure, Grok wasn’t pondering the virtues of a “slow” stock portfolio or holding workshops on tantric sex (although who knows). Nonetheless, the core of the movement rings true – and timeless. There’s a reason we miss quiet weekends untethered to technology. There’s a reason a city with ample park space and a vibrant pedestrian zone feels more inviting than a congested sea of skyscrapers and cars. There’s a reason we feel uniquely fulfilled cooking and sharing a homemade meal with others. These were the basic experiences of our ancestors. Humanity evolved with rhythms and rituals modern acceleration has left in the dust. Our psyches haven’t caught up with the change of pace. Life makes more sense the slow way.

As slow living advocates explain, it’s not about moving through life at a snail’s pace. Slow living calls us to bring intention to our mental tempo. We exert the energy and speed we want to conjure for a particular task, but we don’t get caught up in an addiction to pace. It’s about deciphering a “sweet spot” for living, a personally optimal rhythm for life that serves us best. We can be challenged without being overwhelmed. We can feel recharged without being stagnant. A good Primal life seeks that same sweet spot – an individually determined set point for thriving. Slow living can be one more framework to help you cultivate that goal.

Thanks for reading today. Let me know your thoughts on slow living. Have a great end to the week, everyone!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. There is a time and a place for everything. Knowing when to take advantage of the opportunity to live slow is your first step. I’m not great but I’m getting better – my first step was leaving my desk for lunch and going out into the sunlight. The next step during my lunch was going to a location that had natural beauty – there are parks near corporate america. Then I turned off my blackberry for that lunch hour and that was true slow freedom. Since then I look for every opportunity to go slow and I take it every single time I can get it! It gets easier if you pay attention.

    Shannon wrote on August 2nd, 2012
    • well said shannon. my initial thought that recurred when i read the article was…”damn, i wish i had a job that allowed for any sense of taking my time” but i like your perspective. i don’t have any trouble slowing down away from work. even since i practically had the blackberry and laptop physically attached to me i made a concious effort to limit their use except in emergencies or when traveling. i just should NOT have to be on them all hours!

      maybe i’ll take my lunch at the park tomorrow :)

      dawn wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  2. I started to slowly unplug myself from the TV about 3 years ago. I used to DVR all of my shows and they would sit on the harddrive because I didn’t have time to watch them. Well, I don’t DVR that many shows now, just the ones I want to watch, maybe 3 shows. I also quilt in my spare time. I’ve quilted since 1991 and love the slow process of creating something of beauty that is unique. But you have to make time for your hobbies and Sunday afternoon is MY time. Sometimes I read a new quilting book or magazine instead of sewing but the point is, the time is mine. Life is so much better in the slow lane.

    Patty wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  3. To be challenged without being overwhelmed, to be refreshed without being stagnant. Beautifully written.

    Kim wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  4. This is one of your best posts, I think, and I would like to see more like it. It helps that I am a big fan of slow living and have been for some time. However, I too get caught up in the frantic pace of the life of the world around me (work, traffic, consumerism), and this was a timely reminder of what really is important. To me, living Primally is living slowly and simply. I like it when you write lifestyle articles that border on (or leave room for) the spiritual. Very good topic today!!

    Dawn wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  5. Beautifully put!

    dotsyjmaher wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  6. About 9 months ago I gave up watching and reading news. All of it. Every time I get a glimpse its all the same stuff anyway. Murder, mayhem, destruction and financial devastation, today as it was 9 months ago. So really I didn’t miss a thing except I gained by reducing my stress levels.

    Michal wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  7. Wow, great article Mark. I have been working on a slower living style for a while now, and this really brought up some good ideas for new challenges!

    Kevin wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  8. Guess I shouldn’t have done my PBF sprints today! 😉

    I love being a stay at home mom to a 3 yr old and 4 month old. Every day I get to decide what we will do and it’s usually not rushed. I believe God was brilliant when he designed a nursing mom to have oxytocin coarse through her body as she nurses to slow down and zone out with the baby! Love it.

    amy wrote on August 2nd, 2012
    • I felt the same way when I was nursing- relaxed, enjoying my day, no schedules. But once i weaned ( weaned 3 years ago) I began experiencing much more stress, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed- I think my body was hooked on that oxytocin (nursed 2 kids for 2 years each) and I wish I had that stress deliver back!

      Nicole wrote on August 9th, 2012
  9. I WORK in the film business. I enjoy the work and it has afforded me my apartment (home), grass-fed beef and my slow-burn gym that has changed my LIFE!!!
    I stop when I don’t work, but when I do work…12-16 hour days (if I’m lucky), 10 hours between shifts (not including commute) and go go GO during the shift. I don’t actually have tv, but I will tell you this – eating my primal meal in the morning – and NOT eating quickly during the day ’cause I don’t have to (YAY fat-burning!!!), is a way to combat others trying to take away the slow joy!

    mls2725 wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  10. I usually sneak a speed-read of MDA when my toddlers not looking. But he’s playing with a (toy) motorbike in the kitchen so I found myself reading slower…

    slowly enjoying this hit..


    Ma Flintstone wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  11. This is definitely something I’ve been trying harder to implement in my life. I’ve let stress get to me to the point that I’ve spent most of this year suffering from insomnia. It took a while for me to accept that not being able to shut off at night and waking up too early was being caused by stress alone.
    I’ve been able to practice this the most with my toddler. Now, when we go places, I just follow her – stop where she stops, look at what she looks at, invite her to investigate things further – and by doing this, I’m getting to experience the art of learning all over again. It is amazing to see a little kid absorb the world and definitely worth slowing down for.

    Casey wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  12. It’s funny, I was just told the other day that my movements are always slow and calculated, like those of an old man. I of course replied that I can move quickly if I wish to.

    I simply dislike being rushed.

    Alex Good wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  13. 10 years ago, I was on the verge of a complete mental and physical breakdown. My commute was over 2 hours a day, I worked for mean people in a windowless office for 12 hours a day serving even more mean people (I was a food stamp/welfare case worker). Death threats were common. When I quit, it felt great to slow down and enjoy life. The best thing I did was to dump all the mean people from my life. I especially don’t listen to all the nastiness and negativity on the tv or radio. I don’t have a tv and I’m a bog fan of book radio. Life is good.

    TruckerLady wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  14. I only had time to speed read this post so I hope I didn’t miss anything.

    Anyway, for everyone who’s taking it slowly today, here’s an interesting article by a blogger who comparing T. Colin Campbell and Mark, I think, but without naming any names. Did I call that right, do you think?
    That really skinny old scientist dude says anything from an animal will give you cancer. But a super-ripped 60 year old with a best-selling diet book says eat more butter with your crispy T-Bone and you’ll be just fine as long as you stay away from grains. Great abs beat out the PhD so you end up hanging out on a forum where everyone eats green apples and red meat and talks about how functional and badass parkour is.
    For people who are taking it slow today and have time to read the whole thing. . .


    Roger in Korea wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  15. I agree 100% with the idea of unplugging once in a while to enjoy life.

    Three weeks ago I had nothing to do on a Sunday (very rare) so I decided to turn off my phone, go for a walk around this park by my house, and do some yoga while there. I’ll tell you I woke up on Monday feeling the most refreshed that I have in months.

    Society as a whole could definitely benefit if people took the time once in a while to stop and enjoy the simple things in life.

    Thanks Mark

    Tom Coffey wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  16. This post resonates deeply with me. Last year my family and I made a choice to live slowly. We sold many of our belongings, rented our house, and hit the road in an RV. We’ve been traveling for almost a year and life has never felt more full. We eat three meals together a day, go on hikes, enjoy exercising outdoors, spend afternoons cuddled on the couch reading, (me and the kids…hubby works), leisurely explore new places, and generally enjoy a life with very few commitments. The trick will be taking what I’m learning living slowly with me when (or if) we return to a traditional life.

    Jenn (GH) wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  17. Beautiful post. Words to live by indeed.

    Egan wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  18. I would add the suggestion however that if you do plan ahead well you can be slower. Some people live so much in the moment they are in constant stress as to how to pay the bills and there are no meals ready for the children and the kitchen floor never gets cleaned.

    “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin” – people may remember that biblical line.. but I always thought well lucky them – someone is feeding them.

    I like slow so much I bought my own island where it is so simple and slow of course but I am happy and fast and hard working. I deliberately cut out stresses I don’t like now I am secure enough to be able to do that, but some people are retired and stressed over whether to wear their slippers or shoes to the local shop for their highlight of the day -0 buying the newspapers whilst some of us run complex businesses and do not feel stress.

    Although people say busy people at the top have most stress most studies in the UK show it is the blue collar workers without any power whose boss tells them what to do at the drop of a hat who have the most psychiatric illnesses relating to stress (most of my family are psychiatrists so we chat about that kind of thing a lot).

    So yes, cut stress where you can or work out why something is stressing you. If you have a new baby who wakes every 2/3 hours night and day to feed and screams without a reason (many of them do) you will be stressed and tired and if you do not respond to the cries the baby suffers – therefore in a sense the stress has purpose.

    On “slow” most weekends I do not do a single planned thing. My chidlren this summer holiday have virtually nothing planned at all whereas children in some countries like many in the US will be away at summer camps and all kinds of planned courses. I like the doing nothing so you use your imagination to fill the time school.

    EnglishRose wrote on August 2nd, 2012
    • Although people say busy people at the top have most stress most studies in the UK show it is the blue collar workers without any power whose boss tells them what to do at the drop of a hat who have the most psychiatric illnesses relating to stress (most of my family are psychiatrists so we chat about that kind of thing a lot).

      And you need to be a psychiatrist to know that? I would think that intelligence would be more helpful. The same intelligence would also suggest giving a SOCIETY ( a concept unknown to psychiatrists) a different advice than “Just slow down if you can.”
      Why don’t you advice people to buy their own islands, continents, planets?
      OK, people, I have a solution – go and buy an island and a mansion and stop working of course. Problem solved.

      anna5 wrote on August 3rd, 2012
      • People need to be inspired. The best things about my life are my health and happiness and children, not that I am successful at work (and islands really do not cost anything ilke what many apartments do in London or New York).

        Women can be inspired to know if they work hard or smart they can buy islands or even just buy time not doing chores or even time not to work as well also learning that you don’t have to work at all – indeed in the UK you need never work as we have a social benefits system which means you can choose never to work and the state will support you. We are one of the best countries to work totally slowly and 4 in 5 women earn less than their husbands. In some ways you could argue women using their erotic power have learned how to “go slow” as they live off the earnings of a man. Anyway I’m probably being too political so I’ll shut up.

        EnglishRose wrote on August 5th, 2012
  19. Thank you.

    Paula wrote on August 3rd, 2012
  20. When I was just a young lad (back in the’50’s, the insurance companies were betting I would live to age 70. I am now 74. Now I look at the past year as a bonus.
    You have to have a positive outlook on life. Once I turned 70 my whole outlook changed. SLOW DOWN live life one day at a time.Enjoy.
    Living in NJ,my wife, neighbors, and I go to the shore(beach) on Wed and swim in the ocean, very invigorating!
    On Thur. we go to a lake in “the pines”
    once we turn off the main road it is so peaceful! nothing but trees.
    Another thing I like to do, when I am in Crisfield, MD, is paddle my kayak out to Tangier Sound, stop, listen to the wind, and the sounds of silence.

    Fred wrote on August 3rd, 2012
    • Your outlook changed at 70 and it’s positive. That’s nice.
      Why don’t you check what kind of society you’ve created? I am sure that your advice to have positive attitude and slow down offered to those who in the 20s have three jobs (each paying minimal wage – no health insurance), commute 4 hours a day, live 5 in a tiny apartment, have insane college debts and NO chance of living normal (let alone slow) life is invaluable.

      anna5 wrote on August 3rd, 2012
      • Are you describing your life now? If so, hope things get less hectic.

        Pam wrote on August 6th, 2012
  21. Once again, this is the most important primal topic and think we shouldn’t allow the most privileged among us to define it (oh, I live on my island, my servants bring me morning poached eggs to the beach etc.) in order not so much to prevent perception of being elitist, but primarily to prevent further barbarization of society.

    anna5 wrote on August 3rd, 2012
  22. I just finished reading a Slow Living blog for the first time. My own personal philosophy has moved markedly in this direction over the last couple years, though I hadn’t thought to put a label on it or realize that it’s a nascent movement.

    Thank you for posting this article. It’s nice to know there is a community of like-minded people from whom I can glean ideas on how to further improve my quality of life.

    Dan wrote on August 3rd, 2012
  23. This blog was so timely. Recently, I started allowing myself to get caught up in the speed of life. Things were moving a million miles an hour in my mind and I was afraid to slow down because, in my mind, I just “had so much to do.” Its time to sit down and, as the author Tim Ferriss commonly states, “focus on the critical few instead of the trivial many.” Thanks Mark for this helpful reminder!

    shawn wrote on August 3rd, 2012
  24. My favorite vacation spot is back home in Colombia. I wake up to a view of the mountains, TV is not a big part of everyday life, walking to places is routine, cell phones are not abundant. It’s a slower pace culture that favors human interaction over multitasking. Time passes slowly and peacefully. After every visit, it takes me two weeks to readjust to the chaos of my life here.

    Claudia wrote on August 3rd, 2012
  25. I think Ferris Bueller said it best. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

    Tyler wrote on August 3rd, 2012
  26. I was just discussing this, this morning as I’m visiting family down in Georgia, while I’m from around Boston. Life is so different down here, and although it seems like a stereotype I actually really do notice it. Maybe its the heat, but people move a lot more slowly 😉 I definitely like it though, its making me less stressed and more happy.

    katie wrote on August 3rd, 2012

    I thought this link exemplifies a slow living take on exercise. Let’s go kick some banana trees!!

    Katie wrote on August 3rd, 2012
  28. Like so many things primal, this resonates with me tremendously. I have been realizing this myself for some time. I have adopted reading by candlelight in my bedroom to wind down before sleep on some evenings. It is incredibly relaxing. I wish that the 40-hour workweek would disappear in favor of a 3 or 4-day workweek, no more than 8 hours per day including the drive. How sweet that would be!

    Kevin A Goldman wrote on August 3rd, 2012
  29. I just resigned from my job as a nurse in a level 1 trauma center. I transfer in 2 weeks to a small community ER. It is known for its slow pace and I seriously worried I would be bored. This could not be a more timely piece for me to read. At my current job, I know daily I don’t give really good care, everything is rushed, always. I am looking forward to being able to have a conversation with my patients again, soon.

    cnymicaa wrote on August 3rd, 2012
  30. I calmed down just reading this article

    Just reprint the same article weekly so I can get regular reminders!

    Sian wrote on August 4th, 2012
  31. Slow living sounds like the perfect pace of life. It would be a lovely change to our frenetic need for the next new thing. I wonder if there will come a point in our future where we’ll find that balance again?

    oceanside orthodontist wrote on August 4th, 2012
  32. Thank-you for this blog. It’s the best. You articulate thoughts and feelings that I have re: this issue. I had 2 reactions when I read it — gratitude that you had written it, and “who can I send it to”. I sent it to my sister who is like-minded and she had the same 2 reactions. We thought it useless to send it to people we thought could use it since they would be too busy to read it. I am so happy to hear that there is a slow living movement — that there actually are other people out there who see the negative repurcussions in the way our world is going. Even if we have to work 9-5 there are ways to work “slowly”. I would love to be able to open a little restaurant called “the slow living cafe” and the tag line would be “if you are in a hurry, don’t come here!” Thanks again for putting these thoughts down on your blog.

    Rosemary wrote on August 4th, 2012
  33. Stress and cortisol are two issues that I struggle with. Any thoughts on the best way to track whether these two issues could be causing health issues or otherwise preventing me from improving myself further? I know that blood tests are a possibility, but any quick checks that might provide more immediate feedback? (e.g., blood pressure, blood sugar testing, etc.)

    Thanks, Mark!

    Nathan wrote on August 4th, 2012
  34. Today I lived slowly. I’m one of those people who can get caught up in accomplishing a mile long list or I don’t feel good about my day. I caught myself this morning getting worked up and just stopped- here’s what I did today instead of those million other things:
    Went to our farmer and picked up our meat and eggs for the next couple weeks.

    Talked to his wife while our kids played.

    Went for a swim with my mother and son.

    Went shopping for an hour and ate a nice dinner.

    Went to my aunts farm to walk and play with my son. Read a book on the porch while he played some more. Showed him around the barn. Decided we should spend the night at the farm, while dad had a night with his buds. Read some more. Played cards. Watched part of a movie with son. Put him to bed and read some more.

    Tomorrow when we wake up we are going to exercise in the yard together.

    Drink coffee on the porch while dad sleeps in.

    Return home.

    It’s been fabulous.

    Andi wrote on August 4th, 2012

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