The Slow Movement

Carl Honoré Carl Honoré

Every parent knows that children like bedtime stories read at a gentle, meandering pace. But I used to be too fast to slow down with the Brothers Grimm. I zoomed through the classic fairy tales, skipping lines, paragraphs, whole pages. My version of Snow White had just three dwarves in it. “What happened to Grumpy?” my four-year-old son would ask.

Then one day I caught myself eyeing up a collection of One-Minute Bedtime Stories – yes, Snow White boiled down to 60 seconds – and that’s when the alarm bells started ringing.

Thankfully, I never bought the fast fables. Instead, I became the voice of the Slow Movement.  

Don’t worry, though: I’m not a slowness fanatic. Faster is often better – we all know that. 

The Slow philosophy means doing everything at the right speed – fast, slow or whatever works best. It means being present and living life rather than rushing through it.

And just when you think the faster-is-better ethos has run out of road, along come speed yoga and drive-thru funerals.

We desperately need a Slow revolution because the virus of hurry has infected every corner of our lives. Many of us work, drive, talk, think and eat too fast. We even make love in a hurry. One mainstream magazine recently featured the following headline: “Bring Her to Orgasm in 30 Seconds!” And just when you think the faster-is-better ethos has run out of road, along come speed yoga and drive-thru funerals.

Getting stuck in fast forward takes a heavy toll. Our health, diet and relationships suffer. We make mistakes at work. We struggle to focus, relax, enjoy the moment, or even get a decent night’s sleep. 

The good news is that the Slow Movement is growing – and fast.

Millions are now taking a slower approach to food, and eating better as a result. Look at the rise of farmers’ markets, organic farming and cooking classes, or the renaissance of artisan bread, cheese and beer. 

Slowing down can also work wonders in the bedroom. We all laughed when Sting raved about romping Tantric-style for hours on end but couples of all ages are now flocking to workshops to learn the art of unhurried lovemaking. 

Others are tuning their bodies and minds with slower exercise (think yoga, tai chi and SuperSlow weightlifting) and slower forms of medicine (think acupuncture and massage).

Around the world, more than 260 official Slow Cities are now putting quality of life ahead of sprawl.

There is also a growing push to let children slow down. Unstructured time lets them recharge and reflect, and teaches them how to socialise and think creatively. That’s why schools are trimming the homework load and parents are cutting back on extracurriculars. A Harvard dean sent a letter to all incoming freshmen extolling the virtues of doing less and chilling more. The title: “Slow Down.”

And the list goes on. There are now thriving movements for Slow Travel, Slow Fashion, Slow Gaming, Slow TV, Slow Journalism, Slow Leadership, Slow Retail, Slow Design, Slow Radio, Slow Finance, Slow Blogging, Slow Politics, Slow Art, Slow Media, Slow Reading, Slow Management and Slow Architecture. The whole mindfulness movement is just another way of saying, “Slow down!”

Forget frantic acceleration. Mastering the clock of business is about choosing when to be fast and when to be slow.

Even the business world, where the cult of speed runs deepest, is warming to the idea of shifting down a gear from time to time. Why? Because doing so improves communication, accuracy, creativity, collaboration, strategic thinking and productivity. A recent survey by The Economist ended with a perfect précis of the Slow creed: “Forget frantic acceleration. Mastering the clock of business is about choosing when to be fast and when to be slow.”

The same goes for technology. The speed of our gadgets is wonderful but being always on is not. That’s why heavyweights such as Apple, Facebook and Instagram have unveiled tools to help users spend less time gazing at screens. It’s also why more and more of us are doing digital detoxes. Together, these efforts add up to what is now called – you guessed it – the Slow Technology movement.

So ignore the sultans of speed who warn that slowing down means ditching your career, tossing the smartphone and moving to a commune. Taking a Slow approach to life does not mean withdrawing from the world but rather experiencing it more vividly. As Mae West observed: ‘Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.’

Getting in touch with my inner tortoise has worked wonders for me. I still love living in a fast-paced city, but am no longer a round-the-clock roadrunner. 

Result: I am more relaxed, dynamic and creative. I feel closer to my friends and family and more able to enjoy each moment. I’m living my life now instead of racing through it.

And I’ll tell you what: Snow White is a lot more fun with seven dwarves.