I first stumbled across cottagecore on Instagram (where else!) and was instantly intrigued as to how this aesthetic and its practice of slow living could be helpful as someone living with chronic illness.
The first noticeable aspect of cottagecore is whimsical, perhaps slightly magical, images of a calm and quiet rustic lifestyle. Yet it also struck me that many of its principles, of slower and more mindful living, overlap with the more restful practices that many of us are advised to follow, or find beneficial, to soothe over-sensitised bodies. It got me to thinking that perhaps cottagecore and chronic illness are a match made in a pastel-coloured heaven . . .
- What is cottagecore?
- An aesthetic
- And a practice of slow living
- Cottagecore and chronic illness: learning to practice slow living
- Stumbling across cottagecore and slow living
- Calming an over-sensitised body and mind
- Slower living and pacing
- Gratitude for small moments
- How am I incorporating cottagecore into my life?
- Related posts you may like to read:
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What is cottagecore?
Cottagecore has been described as 'centered around what you would imagine living in a cottage in the countryside would be like — gardening, greenery, floral prints, flowy dresses, and animals. You want to feel like you would fit in on a farm' (Huffington Post).
It is then, a sharp move away from all things 'modern' in the sense of technology and 'new-ness' that many of us strove for in the 90s. The need for the latest mobile phone, laptop and being busy hustling for something, anything, that made us feel productive and busy.
As an aesthetic, cottagecore has a few guises now since its popularity on Instagram and all the different interpretations that have come into being. The heart of cottagecore as a visual 'look' though is of romantic, peaceful, neutral or largely pastel-coloured scenes, clothes and the ever-popular flatlay. There is nothing 'harsh' about cottagecore. It is soft and welcoming, and all things nature and countryside.
And a practice of slow living
Beyond the beautiful images and curated scenes, cottagecore has a message that stands in stark contrast to the 'hustle culture' of modern living and the belief that you have to 'have it all'. It is a focus on simple pleasures and small moments.
It is notable that this aesthetic is often written about as an 'escape' into cottagecore - an escape from all things deemed modern or industrial. Much of cottagecore seems to be very made-up, perhaps even contrived, or at least a life that can only feasibly lived by a few. In this world, 'there are no phones pinging constantly with updates, no urgent work emails, no evenings spent responding to the onerous demands of a tyrannical boss. In fact, there is no labor beyond domestic, and workaday tasks are completed with a gauzy sense of fulfillment' (The New York Times).
Of course, few can live without a phone (and after all, how would you take your cottagecore photos to post to Instagram without one?!), and most of us have to work for a living.
But, the underlying message of cottagecore is slow living or at least slower living. It is an appreciation of quiet moments, more traditional pursuits and the value of nature around us. It is joy from a bunch of flowers and reading a book while the cat naps nearby and a coffee is cooling beside us. And we don't have to live on a farm to both prioritise and enjoy those moments of the day.
Related post: Living well with fibromyalgia
Cottagecore and chronic illness: learning to practice slow living
Recently I knew I was about to get a flare-up of symptoms. The familiar signs of extra fatigue, extra pain and not being able to sleep well were sharply reminding me that I was doing too much. Too much work, trying to establish my business and all while racing around medical appointments and, ironically, racing around wheat fields trying to keep my body strong through running.
It felt, well still feels, as though there is too much to do and my mind and body are too busy for the chronic illness life that asks for more rest and relaxation. I knew that things were 'off' but didn't know what to do about it.
Stumbling across cottagecore and slow living
A little scroll through the posts of the chronic illness community on Instagram quickly led me to find mention of slow living, and more mindful living. Of cottagecore and naturecore and all things 'quiet' and calm and peaceful. It sounded like just what the doctor ordered . . . (excuse the pun!).
Calming an over-sensitised body and mind
I realised that I had actually been moving towards cottagecore aesthetics for some time, but without realising it had a name or was a genre of style.
My over-sensitised body hates all things bright, loud or over-stimulating. Chronic illness conditions such as migraine, fibromyalgia and dysautonomia tend to mean that anything 'loud' (in whatever sense) can be a trigger. And for many of us, our nervous systems are already dialled up too high and so need calm not chaos.
It may seem strange, but living with vestibular migraine means that my head dislikes bright colours or busy patterns. It can bring on attack, at the worst. Since my diagnosis I have moved more and more to clothes in neutrals and paler tones. A new set of bed linen is cream with a very subtle pattern of tiny flowers scattered here and there. Everything is 'dialled down' to hopefully keep my body that way too.
Slower living and pacing
If slower living is at the heart of cottagecore then, for me at least, it seems to go along with pacing. They aren't the same thing of course, but rest is a vital aspect of pacing and seems to fit nicely with the slower pace of life cottagecore aspires to.
Cottagecore encourages simple pleasures that tend to be more restful pursuits. Reading a book quietly with a cup of tea, sewing, pottery, any simple pursuit that involves calm not too much energetic 'action'. All seem rather helpful as time away from computers, housework and more stressful activities. I think my previous Occupational Therapist would have approved!
Gratitude for small moments
I used to be the kind of person that walked back to my car on a Friday night after work and mentally tick off my achievements for the week. I wanted there to be a LOT of them. Both work tasks and personal goals. I wanted to feel as though I had 'conquered' the week with all that I had done, in an oh-so-busy-fashion.
In hindsight, after chronic illness came and changed my life, I may have been 'achieving' a lot, but I was also missing out on so much. My priorities were off. Family time was sometimes passed over for a weekend in the office, and I was so on-the-go that I didn't really appreciate my achievements anyway. I was simply on to the next thing.
Chronic illness taught me to appreciate small moments, and to see that they are often actually really big moments. An ice-cream with my niece in the park is a memory forever. Playing with the cat brings a smile to my face, and hopefully joy to his day too. Yet I missed this back then. Trying to shift towards slow living, or at least slower living, has brought a sense of gratitude that in turn brings more happiness.
How am I incorporating cottagecore into my life?
Slow living doesn't come easily to me. I like to work hard, perhaps too hard, and always have a million ideas bubbling through my head. I know though, that this isn't the best for my conditions, and have been making an effort to slow down a bit more. Cottagecore, it seems, may be a fun way to encourage myself to do so!
The main way I am incorporating slow living into my life is through daily, or almost daily walks. I know that sounds contradictory, but it is actually the best way to calm my mind. After discovering a couple of public footpaths through nearby wheat fields, it has become my sanctuary to spend time there away from people and cars and noise (other than the very grumpy cow in one of the fields).
Those walks are often with my mum and it has become a time for us to be together. Sometimes we talk a lot, other times it is a comfortable silence punctuated with a laugh about said grumpy cow mooing his (rather large) head off.
Cooking, gardening and enjoying the (decaf) coffee
Aside from walks, I am reading more, cooking more and simply enjoying a cup of decaf coffee while scrolling through fellow cottagecore peeps on Instagram. I'm gardening and growing pale pink roses and cute little daises. Pots of herbs line my kitchen windowsill.
Perhaps cottagecore is simply a 'made-up' phrase for something many of us have been doing for decades anyway, but seeing others slowing down and moving back to a slightly more rustic and nature-focused life encourages me to set the laptop aside a little more often.
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