Illustration of a woman tearing up her resolution list

The End of the Resolution: Why More People Are Opting for 'Slow Living'

Evidence shows that New Year's resolutions are made to be broken…and people are no longer making them. This year, Verywell Mind and Verywell Fit are taking a joint stance against the resolution and providing readers with actionable, evidence-based ways to make lasting changes that will serve our readers’ minds, bodies, and spirits well beyond 2023. Join us to learn how to optimize your wellness, one small step at a time.

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Some of us were holed up at home, learning how to make bread and receiving handwashing lessons from celebrities on Instagram. Some of us were essential workers, layering gloves and masks as we rang people up for their groceries. Some of us were instantly unemployed, forced to take a hiatus from work while panicking about our livelihood. COVID-19 was a moment that changed all of us, causing us to reconsider how we are living our lives, as most life-threatening situations do. In turn, many of us came out on the other side, living a much slower life by choice or by chance. 

Slowing Down in a Fast World

Slow Living

Slow living is often described as the art of living life at a leisurely pace, deciding to engage with one’s sense of time in a deliberate manner.

The origins of the Western world's exploration into the slow living movement started with Slow Food. In 1986, journalist Carlo Petrini gathered a group of activists to help him protest Italy's first-ever McDonald's. Drawing on a long-lost culture of sourcing local and sustainable foods that are cooked with intention, Slow Food became a global movement. Slow Food inevitably spurred the Western world's interest in a slower pace of life, one that doesn't require scarfing down low-nutrient meals in-between back-to-back meetings and instead honors the tradition and pleasure of intentionally using one's time with presence.

The concept and practice of slow, intentional, and mindful living has been around since ancient times and has roots in Buddhist, Confucian, and Daoist practices.

When we consider the alternate "hustle culture," a lifestyle that leads to stress and burnout, it is a significant precursor to poor health, inflaming issues like headaches, sleep issues, digestive disorders, depression, and anxiety. With this in mind, slow living isn’t only more enjoyable; it is also a major boon for one’s overall health. 

However, as one can imagine, it isn’t as simple as waking up one day and deciding it is time to do less. Challenged to understand this near-mythical lifestyle, we reached out to Kathleen DeVos, LMFT to learn how this concept can be put into practice.

To me, slow living is as much about how we’re structuring our lives and spending our time as it is how we are relating to our time and the things in our life.

Cautious of prescribing ways of being that simply aren’t accessible to many folks, it is refreshing to hear a very rational way of viewing this. “We can have a lot going on, but be present, find stillness, and be intentional in what we’re choosing,” she continued.

Pandemic Priorities

In 2020, Roxanne Morrison was working a busy job that she loved. She was exhausted but found her work fulfilling—she was overseeing operations, creative production, and marketing at a large company she felt very connected to. Yet, there was a part of her that knew she was burning the candle at both ends, understanding that the pace was not sustainable. Then, the summer rolled around, and she found herself unemployed thanks to a pandemic-induced round of layoffs. 

“I have consciously been participating in slow living since the early pandemic,” she explained. “Slow living is rooted in the embodiment of pleasure as well. A day in the life is waking up and listening to [myself] to see what [I] need,” she continued.

A day in the life is waking up and listening to [myself] to see what [I] need.

In the slowness came the calling to pursue two of her long-term passions: astrology and sculpting. She was able to start two businesses out of these passions, signaling a major reprioritizing of her desires. Yet, it isn’t without its concerns. Businesses can have highs and lows. “Figuring out how I am going to make things work financially can be part of the stress. It would be a utopia if I didn’t have to deal with that,” she stated.

The Revolution of the Resolution

With the darkness of winter comes New Year's resolutions. It wouldn’t be uncommon to read this article and vow to dial your life back to a leisurely pace. While this is noble, it is essential to consider what may arise when you turn down the speed of your daily life. “Slow living can give you anxiety at times… Your brain starts to go, and you start to get fidgety and uncomfortable with the stillness,” Morrison admitted. 

It turns out this is a common side effect of slow living. “When we slow down, and part of the reason I think there is a lot of fear around slowing down, we have to be prepared for encounters with what arises in the space we create,” shares DeVos. “This can be terrifying. We might meet self-judgment, unfamiliar emotions, fear of what will happen if we step back or away.” Such big feelings may prompt some to jump ship and avoid the lifestyle changes altogether.

We might meet self-judgment, unfamiliar emotions, fear of what will happen if we step back or away.

The resolution to live a more thoughtful lifestyle is common. About 25% of Americans who made resolutions in 2022 focused on the intention to live a healthier life. Another 21% stated they were resolving to commit to their personal improvement or happiness. However, the idea of working towards a goal seems to be antithetical to the concept of slow living. After all, the point is to slow down, live more, and work less. Plus, many struggle to actually meet their resolutions.

In our 2020 reader poll, 25% of respondents stated they rarely meet their New Year's resolutions goals. Those who opted not to make a resolution shared reasoning like there is already enough stress in their life, or when they do commit to a resolution, they typically don't follow through with it.

Fine-Tuning Your Vision of Slow Living

Does this mean we forgo resolutions altogether? Maybe not. Let’s turn to some research to see what shifts a resolution into lasting change.

A study on New Year’s resolutions published in 2020 found approach-oriented goals, or goals that focus on achieving the desired outcome, to be far more successful than avoidance-oriented goals, which focus on getting rid of unwanted outcomes. This same study also concluded that support can help achieve goals, and New Year’s resolutions can have positive long-term effects in the years that follow.

Keeping this research in mind, consider where you can begin to make gentle changes to call in a new experience. “For example, if one of my values is creativity, how am I protecting time, resources, and a space for this to emerge?” DeVos states.

DeVos also acknowledged the inherent challenge that comes with moving towards slow living. “What are you willing to give up? Are you trying to negotiate with your vision of slow living… in order to avoid having to make tough changes or come up against hard truths?” 

Some of you may be hungry for a lifestyle that prioritizes family. “If family dinners are in your vision, what needs to happen daily to enable that? How might you need to sit down with your partner or family to restructure your weeks?” she explained, mentioning that this might require new boundaries with yourself or at work.

Feel like you could benefit from some support in shifting to a slower lifestyle? See if any other friends are hoping to do the same and if you can support each other.

Is Slow Living Possible for All?

Without a doubt, career demands and financial realities can outshine the possibility of slow living for many. If you're finding yourself unmoored in a 9 to 5 that feels more like a 9 to 9, there is hope. First, you may need to free yourself from the illusion that constantly working equates to high productivity and more self-worth.

For those of you working in busy environments with urgent deadlines, there are ways to call in slowness into your daily life. Let's take the Pomodoro Technique. This method invites folks to navigate time management a bit differently. You'll set a timer for 25 minutes and work diligently, trying your best to avoid all distractions. When the timer goes off, take a five-minute break. Repeat three more times and then take a 30-minute break before starting the process over again.

This timing of this technique can be adapted to the unique challenges of your job. On your breaks, you might consider grabbing a coffee and taking a moment to enjoy it, walking outside to feel the sun on your face, or stretching at your desk for a few minutes.

A 2022 study found the Pomodoro Technique to enhance the learning and skills of students.

Easing the Pace

Slow living is a conversation inherently steeped in privilege. “So many systems are stacked against members of our society who are, in theory, desperate to slow down, but the structure of capitalism is built around burnout and scarcity,” explains DeVos. With this in mind, let's consider some strategies for practicing slow living in your life:

  • Take it back to the origins of the movement and focus on food. Can you focus on sourcing local ingredients and cooking just one meal for yourself each week? If finances are a barrier, keep in mind that many farmers' markets and health food stores now accept EBT and other forms of food aid as payment.
  • Schedule breaks. If your weekends are slammed with family duties, consider challenging the whole family to take an hour-long break together. After, you can come back together and discuss what it was like to take a breather.
  • Live mindfully. Challenge yourself to focus fully on one activity a day. For example, can you be entirely present while brushing your teeth? Notice the taste of your toothpaste, the sound of the bristles, and the feeling of the sink when you turn it on and off.
  • Set boundaries. It is OK to say no. It is worth taking a hard look at the tasks taking up time in your week and exploring if there are ways to renegotiate your time.
  • Do what you can, where you can. It isn't an option for the majority of us to completely uproot our lives. Instead, turn your attention to the tiny habits you have each day. That can help ease the pace of your life in general.

Let me give an example of how slow movement can actually be a micromovement in our daily lives. When I was 20 years old, I was freshly grieving the loss of a parent and a close relative, in college full-time, and supporting myself by working two different jobs. My nervous system was in shock, and I needed to slow down. 

Between my classes, I would take off my shoes, lie in the grass, and feel the sun on my face. I’d take deep breaths and notice the sound of the wind in my ears, the itchy feeling of the grass on my bare feet. Sometimes, this would last for less than five minutes. Other times, I would fall asleep and wake up in a hurry to avoid getting docked points for tardiness. I was slowing down, even if it didn’t seem like it. Amid grief, financial insecurity, and despair, I found a pocket of peace.

According to DeVos, these moments count as part of the movement. “Slow living doesn’t have to mean drastic change. Slow living doesn’t have to mean sacrifice. It can actually lead us to more freedom.”

On those days I rolled into class late, face still red from the sun and imprints of grass markings on my cheek, I relished in the moment of slowness I got, the liberation of allowing myself to simply breathe. Perhaps freedom is here. We just need to slow down and take it in.

Press Play for Advice On Resolutions

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to recover if your resolutions have started slipping. Click below to listen now.

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6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Slow Food. Our History.

  3. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Stress.

  4. YouGovAmerica. Americans who plan to make New Year's resolutions are more optimistic about better things in 2022.

  5. Oscarsson M, Carlbring P, Andersson G, Rozental A. A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PLOS ONE. 2020;15(12):e0234097. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0234097

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By Julia Childs Heyl, MSW
Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy.