Busyness does not Equal Better
In a busy world where being plugged in day and night is the norm, overstimulation has become an increasingly toxic reality that is impacting the quality of our lives.
According to the World Health Organisation, we should be the happiest we've ever been. Violence is said to be at an all time low, so is poverty and starvation. There is more wealth per capita, education has become more available than it was 100 years ago, as has medical care.
At the same time all around the world, we see a rise in anxiety, depression and feelings of loneliness. How, in a world that is so connected, have we become so lost? More importantly, how do we reconnect in a genuine way to ourselves, to others and to our planet? The irony is not lost on us that the products of convenience we've designed to remove hardships of the past, are now proliferating many new socio-psychological and environmental hardships in their place.
Plastic bags, which were once considered a revolutionary step on the path to convenient living, are now destroying fragile ecosystems across the world. The ability to connect to someone at the click of the button has led to fabricated digital realities, where mimicry of The Stepford Wives is now idolised, leaving no space in our social feeds for human flaws.
No wonder people feel so alone! How do we begin to heal ourselves amidst the constant barrage of information and overconsumption?
I've never been one to fall for overly complex, over-prescriptive methodologies or self-help guides. Whenever there is a problem, you can guarantee that there is some wacky book on how to fix it. "Eat five beans a day then stand on your head. Stand on your head and drink yaks milk, whilst eating the beans and also playing the Oboe. Now do it in reverse. Now do it faster. Don't do it at all." Even worse are the ones that tell you life is crap, it is all your own fault and that you should just be able to control what is happening and how you feel about it. Shaming is not a healthy path to go down and might only exacerbate the situation in the long run.
So what is my approach you ask? For me, it can be as simple as saying "I've been on my phone for an hour today, it is now time to come off" and taking that action. No magic beans necessary. When I am away from my devices I make time to take in my surroundings and be present; this is no truer than when I am at home.
The House Where Slow Lives
Being in a space of familiarity and comfort can be a huge promoter of mental wellbeing. Your home is a space that reflects your core values, a place where you can cultivate relationships and take time for yourself. It can also be a centre for expression, where you can adapt different spaces to meet your needs. A huge part of bringing this to life in our household is the concept of Slow Living. Whilst we don't adhere to this in its entirety (sometimes the house is crazy and that's just the way it is) it is a simple concept that has helped us stay grounded during times of stress.
To understand Slow Living, it is important to know what it is not. Slow Living is not about being a minimalist, nor is it about prescribing to a certain set of conditions. It is also not about doing everything you do, but five times slower (although this may be amusing to watch). Most importantly, it is not about throwing caution to the wind and discarding all of your electronic devices in a grandiose gesture of liberation (again this would be fun to watch, but instant regret would soon ensue).
Rather, it is about understanding what gives you happiness, meaning and a sense of fulfilment, then bringing it into your home. It is a state of mind and one that can create an immense sense of calm and relaxation. There are many ways you can begin to introduce this and the first step is defining what matters most in your life.
There is no "trick" to figuring this out. For many of us, these can be discovered in our "I-Wishes". It can look like this: "I wish I could spend more time with my family instead of staying late at work all the time". When we reflect on what is important in our lives, we often discover the antitheses to these. This leads into the next point - defining what needs to stop and finding the strength to say "no". This can be tricky, so start small and you'll soon notice that you are creating space for more fulfilment.
Doing this in the context of your home and making these conscious choices can be very powerful, especially when you use your space to help enhance this experience. This can be done by constructing your space in such a way that aligns to your core values. If you find disconnecting and spending time with your family brings you joy, modify your space so that it draws your family together. This could be a warm, tactile living space where you watch films or a feature table in your kitchen, which you can eat around and discuss your day.
For those needing energy, this could be as simple as letting more light into your space, allowing your circadian rhythm to correct itself. For those who want to live with more intent and purpose, this could be crafting a sensory space filled with artistic and architectural elements that allow you to focus. Whatever your "I-Wish" is, creating balance and time out from the busyness of everyday stimulation is essential for wellbeing.