The slow movement: Why slowing down creates joy

22 May 2017 - mindful living

“The high value put upon every minute of time, the idea of hurry-hurry as the most important objective of living, is unquestionably the most dangerous enemy of joy.” — Hermann Hesse

Hearing more of terms like ‘slow fashion’ or ‘slow food’? These concepts fall under a relatively new (circa 1986) cultural revolution known as the ‘slow movement’, which is against the notion that fast is always better. It espouses the need to move with purpose, to prioritise quality over quantity, and to savour moments rather then treat things as a means to an end. It is also about balance: doing things at the right speed; speeding up when it’s purposeful to do so, slowing down when needed or riding the in-between.

In the modern world where there is a constant need to be busy (and/or act like you are), this movement stems from a need to take back the power to own our lives rather that let ourselves be owned by our insecurity of needing more. From fashion and food right up to travel and education, the ‘slow philosophy’ has attracted many with its counter intuitive ideas about how to experience life, perpetuating a shift in priorities and values.

In Denmark, there exists a lifestyle ritual called hygge and in Sweden, fika. Hygge is described by some as enjoying life’s simple pleasures. It encapsulates the Danes’ conscious cultivation of contentment. Fika roughly translates as “to have coffee”. It’s about setting aside time in the day to linger in the present moment, to eat and drink in good company without interruption. Even Japan, a country known for its extremely fast-paced culture, has more young people moving to (and appreciating) rural areas and a prefecture declaring itself a ‘Slow Life City’.

But what’s so great about slowing down? Like the concept of voluntary simplicity, slowing down acknowledges that quality (rather than quantity) is more important. Focusing on the quality of our time, actions and relationships allows us to:
• Gain better focus and efficiency
• Reduce stress
• Have more time to do what matters most to us
• Have more fulfilling relationships and practise more empathy
• Increase environmental sustainability
• Consciously practise being present, content and patient—three qualities that greatly improve our well-being

This anecdote about an employee working at Swedish company Volvo beautifully encapsulates the concept:

"The first time I was in Sweden, one of my colleagues picked me up at the hotel every morning. It was September, bit cold and snowy. We would arrive early at the company and he would park far away from the entrance. The first day, I didn't say anything, neither the second or third days. One morning I asked him, "Do you have a fixed parking space? I've noticed we park far from the entrance even when there are no other cars in the lot." To which he replied, "Since we're here early we'll have time to walk, don't you think that whoever gets in late will need a place closer to the door?" Imagine my face.

It's been 18 years since I joined Volvo. Working for them has proven to be an interesting experience. Any project here takes 2 years to be finalised, even if the idea is simple and brilliant. It's a rule. In the end, this always yields better results.

Globalised processes have caused in us a need to see immediate results. The slow movement questions the sense of "hurry" and "craziness" generated by globalisation, fuelled by the desire of "having in quantity" versus "having with quality". French people, even though they work 35 hours per week, are more productive than Americans or Brits. Germans have established 28. 8 hour workweeks and have seen their productivity driven up by 20%.

This no-rush attitude doesn't represent doing less or having a lower productivity. It means working and doing things with greater quality, productivity, perfection, with attention to detail and less stress.

It means re-establishing family values, friends and leisure time. It means appreciating humans' essential values, the simplicity of living. It stands for a less coercive work environment, and a happy, lighter and more productive work place where people enjoy doing what they know best how to do.

Many of us live our lives running behind time, but we only reach it when we die of a heart attack or in a car accident rushing to be on time. Others are so anxious to live for the future that they forget to live the present, which is the only time that truly exists.

We all have equal time throughout the world. No one has more or less. The difference lies in what each of us do with our time. We need to live each moment.”

How do we begin to slow down to live a fulfilling life? Here are the 5 essential tips for slowing down.

- The Mindful Company Team