A while back, I was talking with a co-worker about an NPR story on why time seems to move faster as we age. One explanation offered in the story was that, when we were younger, everything we encountered was new and big and significant – we’d never done most things before, or, we’d done them so few times that it all still seemed like new.
Something about how the brain registers time makes it feel like everything slows down when we’re in new situations or experiences. Likely, it’s so we can process all this new information and store it in a logical place according to our brain’s particular filing system. As we age and repeat experiences, however, the brain takes shortcuts. It no longer needs to record every minute detail of something that you’ve done a thousand times. It speeds past those familiar and known experiences, and as a result we feel like our lives have sped up as well.
But part of the beauty of being older is the accumulated experience. The wisdom that is its own treasure. Even if we could turn back the clock to when we were young and time moved more slowly, certainly we wouldn’t to lose all that precious learning and growth we’ve gained over so many years of living?
So the challenge is: how do I look through ever-older eyes with a forever-new heart? How do we make time slow down like way back when everything was new?
Here are some ideas:
9 Ways to Make Time Slow Down
Be fully present in your body. I think most of us are pretty detached from our bodies. We only really pay close attention to our body when something’s wrong with it (‘my knee hurts’, ‘I’m hungry’), or when it experiences pleasure. Most of our relationship with our body is spent in either avoiding pain or chasing pleasure for it – things that send our mind racing through time. Taking time to slow down and actually focus on how the body functions, and what it feels like when it’s being used, is essential. Active hobbies (e.g., sports, biking, walking), stretching, meditation, sex, even massage are good ways to get your mind back into your body.
Be observant. I can get in the habit of having blinders on while going about my day – walking with such purpose to my next meeting or to grab my lunch, that I don’t really see anything except for what’s directly in front of me. You’ve probably done the same. Convinced yourself you’re in a hurry, even if you don’t want to go where you’re headed (Really? I’m rushing… to work?) or you aren’t on a schedule at all (It’s Saturday, why am I mad that everyone’s moving so slow?). Instead of rushing past everyone and everything to get to your next location, slow down and pay attention to the things that you would normally pass by without noticing. Turn your head from side to side as you walk. Look up at the sky, count how many trees you pass from the train station to the office. Imagine the whole world is a ‘Where’s Waldo’ drawing, and you’re trying to see where that sneaky sumbitch is hiding.
Change 1 small thing. Routine makes weeks and months pass by in an indistinguishable blur. If you’ve been going about your daily life with minimal variation, introduce a little change. Take a new route on your commute. Switch your brand of cereal. Take a day off for no reason at all.
Go somewhere new. Even if it’s just a new park, a new restaurant or new area of town. Explore somewhere you’ve never been.
Learn something new. A new language, a new dance move, a new joke. Once you’ve got that one down, learn a new one.
Hang with kids. If you can’t be a kid again, be with kids again. Ask them questions, listen to them talk and engage in conversation with them like you would with any other friend. Play a game with them, show each other your best dance moves, have them tell you a story, laugh together at something silly.
Stop saying you don’t have time. I’m a big believer in the idea that what you affirm mentally and verbally, is made real in your life. If you say you don’t have enough time, you won’t. Your actions will follow your words and you’ll keep finding ways to squander away your time on a hundred things that you’ve chosen to do instead of the things you should be doing. If you really don’t have enough time to do the things that you need or want to in your life, that’s a big red flag that you need to sit down and make some difficult decisions about what needs to stay and what needs to go in your life. Ask yourself what and who you need to re-prioritize in order to stop feeling so overscheduled and overwhelmed. Or, you need to stop sweating the small stuff and change that statement from a helpless, “I don’t have time,” to a knowing, “I can’t do everything.”
Be someone new. This isn’t as un-doable as it sounds. I’m not suggesting you go fugue or check into the witness protection program, but do something that lets you see yourself as a different person. Change up your style, get a new hairdo, lose or gain some weight, talk in a German accent for an entire day, schedule some sessions with a therapist or a life coach.
Plan a vacation. Cuz, seriously, time moves at its absolute slowest in the weeks and days before it’s time for you take a highly anticipated trip somewhere.
Do you feel like time has sped up as you’ve gotten older? What other ways have you found to make time slow down?