Slowing down to feel freer: the philosophy of Downshifting is becoming increasingly popular | Selle Royal

Slowing down to feel freer: the philosophy of Downshifting is becoming increasingly popular

Bike Culture & Tips
Slowing down to feel freer: the philosophy of Downshifting is becoming increasingly popular
November 2017

We spend much of our life trying to accumulate: affection, objects, dreams, money and power. Everyone strives towards “saving ourselves” for a time when we can enjoy the rewards of what we have set aside. We have chosen to be both the cicada and the ant in the well-known fable, in a vicious circle that risks turning on itself. In recent years, a solution to this dangerous vortex has been increasingly emerging. It involves a different way of considering one's own existence and a new lifestyle, which translates into a single word: slow.

Slowing down physically and psychologically; making life choices that allow you to regain a more human pace; enjoying the present moment instead of focusing attention on the future. In the field of work, all this has evolved into the concept of downshifting (also called “voluntary simplicity”), which is based on a series of choices that are no longer focused on money and status symbols but rather on simplicity intended as psycho-physical wellbeing.
The term was coined by the Trends Research Institute of New York in 1994, when a model of a hyper-consumerist society was all the rage, focusing exclusively on the idea of  “I work > I produce > I earn > I pay > I expect > I consume”. The philosophy of downshifting then spread internationally and, today, it is slowly revolutionizing the way we perceive and handle the world of work, and to such an extent that it is included in the New Oxford Dictionary with the meaning of “the free exchange of an economically satisfying yet obviously stressful career with a lifestyle that is less tiring and lower paid but more rewarding”.

Embracing downshifting is an increasingly widespread practice, especially among those who are self-employed and can organise their time more easily. It has also become an approach that has been studied in sociological and economic terms, as demonstrated by some of the many books written on this subject. For those who would like to learn more about this aspect of slow philosophy, we can recommend some interesting reading and ideas:

  • Downshifting: How to Work Less and Enjoy Life More" by John Drake;
     
  • That's enough. Leave your job and change your life. The philosophy and strategy of those who have done it” by Simone Perotti;
     
  • the official website of International Downshifting Week, where you can also find practical advice on becoming a downshifter in every respect, provided by Tracey West, the “guru” of the movement.
     

But what are the concrete actions of those who follow this philosophy? We identified some of them, however, we are sure that everyone knows how to find their own personalised ones:

  • to prefer a less tiring and more rewarding life;
     
  • to give less importance to money and more to free time;
     
  • to eliminate everything that is superfluous;
     
  • to prefer cycling to driving a car;
     
  • to cultivate a vegetable garden;
     
  • to eat locally sourced and seasonal food;
     
  • to raise a farmyard animal;
     
  • to adapt to living well with little;
     
  • to re-evaluate slowness in your actions and thoughts;
     
  • to go for a walk in new places;
     
  • to do creative activities;
     
  • to travel low cost;
     
  • to do manual jobs and repair things that break instead of buying new things;
     
  • to make eco-sustainable choices, limiting waste.

 

It is not always easy to slow down your life; it is a gradual path that has a real environmental and cultural impact that involves consistency and perseverance, with the important aim of giving us more freedom.  Choosing to use a bike instead of a motor vehicle is one of the most important steps to becoming a downshifter: riding a bike to get around necessarily means a slower and less stressful approach to everyday activities, and one that is also more respectful of the environment and your health. So let's take advantage of this opportunity that is so simple to grasp!

We can plan our time by choosing the most attractive path to follow, not the fastest. We can ride a bike to tone our muscles but without tiring them too much. We can rediscover places in the city that are off the beaten track. We can share, if possible, a journey with other amateur cyclists, taking the opportunity to chat and make new acquaintances. In short, we can enjoy the journey, not the destination.  

Then, if our type of job allows it, we can try to replace our car with a bike, even for everyday journeys. Cargo-bikes are ideal for those who need to transport things that are not too bulky. Small supermarkets, florists, bakers, laundries, greengrocers and many other businesses have begun to use bike couriers for all their deliveries in city districts, and it is no coincidence. It is an excellent way to get to traffic-limited zones while reducing exhaust gases, which all too often envelop historic centres. In short, it means taking the first step or the first bike ride to rediscover the wellbeing that, we are sure, will be the result.

The downshifting philosophy has become so widespread that, since 2003, National Downshifting Week has been celebrated in Great Britain in the last week of April. The next event, scheduled from 23 - 29 April 2018, will be a great opportunity to discover how easy it can be to feel free.

 
 
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