Many years ago, I used to teach outdoor education at a camp on Possum Kingdom Lake. Fourteen of my twenty four hours in a day were spent outdoors, rain or shine, and I loved every minute of it. Looking back now on that time in my life, those were some of my best years for personal growth and overall satisfaction. Despite being in my early twenties and free of the responsibilities I have now as an adult, I knew it was a life changing opportunity. Since I’ve left, I have spent much of my time figuring out how to get back to that state of living.
During that time in my life I was practicing slow living. I didn’t carry a cell phone or have a computer. I had a land line phone, and wrote letters to communicate. Facebook wasn’t created yet (I think there was myspace), and instagram wasn’t even a dream, but even if those existed, I am certain I would not have been using them. I found my joy living every day in tune with nature.
Today, instant gratification is at an all time high. Our culture just can’t seem to get enough of technological entertainment. I want it and I want it now. I find myself getting caught up in it. For the past month I’ve wasted at least an hour before bed surfing social media on my phone. And then I ask myself why I’m not sleeping. Overstimulation does not equal bliss.
Not only does overstimulation wreak havoc on happiness, but it throws us right into compare and despair syndrome. Everyone else’s life is beautiful, why isn’t mine? Social media gives us a false sense of who we should be…someone with the latest and greatest gadgets, newest cars, and the most beautiful homes. The truth is, this is not reality and it will never make you happy.
When I think about my time at camp I realize the reason I was so happy was because I didn’t have instant gratification. I wasn’t comparing my life to others on-line. I had to wait to speak with someone on the phone or for a letter to arrive via the post office. The anticipation was thrilling, but more than that the waiting was essential. Not knowing is a fundamental human experience.
As I look back on 2016 and reflect on the word I chose to guide my year, I now understand why it bubbled to the surface in the first place. I chose the word vigor. (To read more about how I intended to put vigor in my life you can read this post.) Of all the experiences from the past year, the ones that I would label as vigorous are deeply connected to slow living. They were moments spent outdoors or with my loved ones. They also happen to be my most grateful and happy moments. Vigor is in tune with humanness, and it was a great guide.
Having discovered this, it has affected how I envision 2017. I’ve made the connection between slow living, wellness, and happiness. I’m not exactly sure how this will look. As much as I intend to disconnect from wires, social media, and technology that doesn’t serve me, I also understand it’s how I connect with you. That is just as important. For now, I’m allowing all of this to sink in and bubble in my unconscious.
What are your thoughts on slow living?