Throw away your "to-do" list. Here's why you should create a "stop doing" list, according to experts

SSlow living is a lifestyle philosophy that focuses on being intentional and savoring moments.
Slow living is a lifestyle philosophy that focuses on being intentional and savoring moments. Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Getty Images

More Americans are turning to the lifestyle philosophy of “slow living" in response to feeling more stressed and burned out. The American Psychiatric Association says 26% of Americans report they are feeling more stressed out now than in 2022.

The principles of slow living “are supported through scientific research underscoring how mindfulness, social connection and spending time in nature promote psychological well-being and physical health,” Supria Gill, a psychologist at Kaiser Permanente, tells Yahoo Life.

What is slow living?

Gill explains that at its core, slow living “emphasizes intentionality and being present in savoring moments in life.” Matt Glowiak, a licensed clinical professional counselor, tells Yahoo Life that slow living involves focusing on the “simple joys” in life and “involves consciously choosing to prioritize quality over quantity, simplifying daily routines and finding a balance between work, leisure and self-care.”

Those who practice slow living often focus on cultivating “deeper connections with oneself, others and the natural world” in order to promote “a more relaxed and intentional approach to life,” Glowiak says. This allows for “increased appreciation, reflection and overall well-being.” Glowiak stresses that slow living is not about being inactive — “people who embrace this philosophy are active but are also in balance.”

Simple ways to practice slow living

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to slow living. “Incorporating slow living principles into everyday life is a personal journey that can be tailored to suit individual preferences and circumstances,” Glowiak says. He emphasizes that adopting a slow-living lifestyle normally takes some time but that change is attainable for most people.

1. Create a 'stop doing' list

Gill recommends that anyone interested in slow living start by moving their focus from a to-do list and instead creating a “stop doing” list. “Auditing your calendar to understand how you spend your time and how your activities align with what matters to you — or don’t — is a good place to start,” she says. “Subtracting may feel like a mindset shift, but will free up time to be more present with what matters.” Glowiak says it’s important to “learn to say no to activities or tasks that don't align with your priorities or values.”

That is the case for Annika Scheer who began implementing slow living practices when she decided to “totally change the trajectory” of her life after she had her first child. While on parental leave from her stressful corporate job, Scheer had time to reflect on her life because, for the first time in years, her mind “wasn’t occupied with work topics twenty-four-seven.” “Stripping away the excess that doesn't benefit you will automatically increase your sense of fulfillment and purpose. And leading a happy and fulfilled life is probably what everybody is trying to achieve,” she tells Yahoo Life.

2. Prioritize self-care

Slow living involves “making time for activities that nourish your mind, body and soul,” Glowiak says. This could include taking walks in nature, practicing mindfulness or meditation, enjoying hobbies, reading or simply resting in your living room. He says as little as 10 minutes a day for self-care activities can lead to long-lasting change. “Consciously committing to this and putting strategies in place,” says Gill, will lead to a slower pace of living over time.

Adriel Sanders, a former attorney, decided to adopt a slow-living lifestyle after developing a heart condition related to stress. “I did not like my job or my career, and I knew that there was no way it would be possible for me to continue in this state,” she tells Yahoo Life. She made immediate changes in how she prioritized herself. “Instead of rushing from place to place all the time,” she now takes the time to “slowly ease” into her day each morning, takes walks for the “joy of walking” and goes to the market every day to buy fresh food for her meals.

3. Disconnect from constant connectivity

As part of a slow-living lifestyle, Glowiak recommends limiting screen time by creating tech-free zones or designating screen-free periods during the day. “Disconnecting from digital distractions allows for greater presence and engagement with the present moment,” he says. Gill suggests taking steps todecrease the effort involved” in creating tech-free time by leaving your phone in another room for part of the day. The Mayo Clinic found that decreasing screen time improves physical health and boosts mood.

“I view time as finite and flexible now, so I value it more,” says Sanders. “When it is time to stop working, I close the computer and live life. … I'm living my slow-living dream.”

4. Engage in mindful activities

Glowiak recommends incorporating mindfulness into daily routines by fully focusing on the task at hand. “Whether it's cooking, gardening or doing household chores, practicing mindfulness can bring a sense of calm and appreciation to everyday activities,” he says. Gill explains that mindfulness improves well-being and reduces stress.

5. Embrace slow food

Food is an important part of the slow-living lifestyle for many. “Cook and savor meals at home, using fresh and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible,” Glowiak says. He also recommends “slowing down the process of preparing and enjoying your food, cultivating mindfulness and a deeper connection to what you consume.” According to Gill, mindful eating can improve well-being.

6. Cultivate meaningful relationships

A big part of slow living is prioritizing quality time with loved ones. This involves “fostering deeper connections and creating memories together,” says Glowiak. “Engage in face-to-face conversations, plan activities together and be fully present when spending time with others.” Strong social connections improve “physical and mental health as well as emotional well-being” and can reduce the risk of early death, Gill says.

7. Spend time in nature

An important part of slow living is finding opportunities to immerse yourself in nature. Glowiak says this can be through “walks, hikes, picnics or simply sitting in a park.” No matter how you choose to connect with nature, it “can provide a sense of grounding, peace and perspective,” he says. According to Gill, spending time in nature can reduce depression and improve overall well-being.

“Taking control of your own well-being means making choices that prioritize your happiness and health. Slow living is a way in which you can be more present, savor the big and small moments, and connect to what matters to you in a way where you manage how you show up,” Gill says.

For Sanders, slow living has changed her life “completely,” not only improving her health but creating a new lifestyle that has made her protective of her “newfound peace, happiness and healthiness.”