A friend of mine is about to begin a long-term program in which, among other things, she’ll learn how to farm, bake bread, make cheese, dip candles and more. It’s hard to imagine that such a life is still possible in our modern world, isn’t it? To me, the notion of living off the land and cultivating routines around the seasons tends to conjure up images of the past and inspire a sense of almost wistful nostalgia for a life most of us have never lived.
In essence, it sounds like an actualization of that elusive “simple life” that we all dream of — free from the stress of nonstop emails, meetings, workouts, social events, etc.
Yet, as fulfilling as such an existence sounds, I also wonder if and how the so-called simple life manifests itself outside the farm and in our own lives. Is the simple life something we just relegate to our imaginations, as a thing of the past? Or is it possible to live a full, successful and simple life without giving up our careers or home responsibilities?
I’ll admit that I struggle with over-scheduling and running on overdrive as much as the next gal, but I’ve learned there are indeed several practical tips we can all adapt to live simpler, more connected lives no matter what we’re juggling.
Here are four basic practices to get started:
1. Reconnect with your food.
We’ve all got to eat, right? But how often do we forsake nutritious home-cooked meals for a quick protein bar or snack on the go? Food is meant to feed and sustain our bodies, but it should be a source of deeper nourishment and connection, too.
It would be great if we all had time to cook our meals from scratch, but even if we could just forgo processed foods in favor of fresh, wholesome fare when possible, take time to appreciate where the foods we consume came from, or be more conscious of the individual ingredients of our meals, we would be better able to slow down and savor our food, while also being more present in this area of our lives.
2. Walk whenever possible.
Regardless of whether we live in a bustling metropolis or a rural suburb, most of us spend a lot of time in the car. It might not be possible to walk to work or the market depending on the commute, but if we can park a little further from the store entrance, take a sunset stroll around the neighborhood each evening, or go for a brisk morning walk to the nearest coffee shop, the extra steps are worth it.
Aside from boosting mood and improving heart health, walking allows our senses to wander and frees the mind to revel in the magic of slow, thoughtful musings on life — which keep us grounded in our purpose and true to our passions.
3. Create space for silence.
Even in the rare moments when we find ourselves in a quiet setting, most of our minds refuse to silence themselves because we’re so used to doing, working and planning all the time. But spending time in solitude from time to time, once the kids are in bed or while we sip our coffee, provides a needed chance to rest and engage in self-reflection, allowing us to hear our inner voice and strengthen our intentions.
4. Start single-tasking.
We’re able to pack more into our lives than ever before with all the tech at our disposal; there’s an almost collective obsession with being as productive as possible. But at what cost? There’s a zen proverb that goes, “When eating, eat. When walking, walk.” It sounds simplistic and obvious, but sometimes we need that reminder to bring mindful awareness to whatever we‘re doing — whether that be catching up with a friend, throwing a load in the wash or washing the dishes.
In short, living a simple life doesn’t have to mean sacrificing internet access, downsizing our houses or cutting out all forms of clutter. Instead, it entails finding freedom from the needless noise and distractions that so often keep us operating in “survival mode.” It’s what allows us to focus on what matters — to connect to the people and practices that bring meaning and value to our lives.
What are your favorite ways to live a simpler life?
Images via Michael Stark