Summer is typically the season when time slows down, families spend more time together, and the every day rat race is put aside for naps in the grass. At least it’s supposed to be.

These days, as life quickly fills up with commitments, work, and stress, it has become increasingly more difficult to make time for the things that truly matter in life. Summer is now a blur where spending time in the sun seems to be just another item added to the ‘to-do’ list.

Well, leave it to our friends at Conscious Consuming to stop the chaos and remind us all of the important things of life. This week, they are encouraging us all to ‘slow down and green up’ by celebrating US National Downshifting Week July 7th through 13th. The event is a voluntary simplicity awareness campaign that builds on the work of Tracey Smith, the founder of National Downshifting Week in the UK.

To downshift is defined as cutting out unnecessary expenditure, cultivating a simpler lifestyle (thus leaving a lighter environmental footprint), and making more time for the things you truly want to do. Data from the mid-90’s from the Trends Research Institute shows that only about 10% of Americans identify with downshifting, voluntary simplicity, and simple living. In recent days, though, with sky-rocketing gas prices and global economic turmoil, more and more Americans are choosing to cut back their consumption and lead simpler, more fulfilling lives. According to Smith, “a positive approach to living with less helps you re-think ways to enjoy time with your loved ones without reaching for your wallet.”

The dates for National Downshifting Week (July 7-13th) were chosen to coincide with the birthday of America’s most famous downshifter, Henry David Thoreau (born July 12, 1817). To participate, the team at Conscious Consuming encourages you to do anything to live simpler and engage better with your community. Activities include cooking a meal using local, fresh ingredients from you farmer’s market, start composting and/or recycling to lessen the amount of waste you produce, and donating time, items or kindness to someone else in need.

And if you find yourself in doubt that this could truly help lessen your stress and increase your happiness, take a look at this inspiring testimonial from a participant in the UK:

I downshifted because I wanted a better work/life balance. I want to enjoy a life with less stress. Those around me say they wish they were brave enough to try it. We wouldn’t go back to our previous lifestyle with my husband working very long hours. We do have less money but now have more time to cook together from scratch, grow some veggies and spend lots of time together as a family. Our health has improved and we are so much happier. It’s a journey we have enjoyed and are still fine tuning each day. Go on, give it a try, you have nothing to lose but lots to gain.

For more tips and inspiration, visit National Downshifting Week to see what happened last April in the UK or our very own Conscious Consuming to decide how you will spend this week here in the US!