*** An article I wrote for work :-) ***
Have you ever wondered why as you get older – and busier – that time seems to speed up?
Frequently our days go by in a blur – we wake up, work, go to sleep, and do it all over again the next day. And so go our days, weeks, months ….
Of course the days are not actually going past any more quickly, however our perception of them makes them seem that way … but why?
Because we are not paying attention
As we fill our days with more and more, time seems to fly by more and more quickly.
Inc. Magazine recently highlighted neuroscientific research which indicates that how the brain perceives time passes determines how long or short or busy our days feel.
“Our sense of time, it turns out, isn’t even. It’s dictated by how much information we need to process — more information spells more time, which is why our younger years, when we’re processing lots and lots of new stuff, seem to pass so slowly.”
The Inc. Magazine article pointed us to a 2011 New Yorker profile of David Eagleman, a neuroscientist who studies time perception. Inc. highlighted this passage, written by Burkhard Bilger:
The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. ‘This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,’ Eagleman said — why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.
So in essence, the answer to slowing down time is to notice more.
Or – in a practice that has become very trendy and popular lately – practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness involves cultivating an attention on the present moment – the “here and now”. By practicing mindfulness we can alter our brain and it’s perception of how quickly – or slowly – time is passing.
“Mindfulness allows people to appreciate their surroundings and can lead to the feeling that time is passing more slowly,” Dr. Steven Meyers, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Roosevelt University in Chicago, told The Huffington Post in a recent article. “Paying attention to events that are pleasant or interesting certainly can enhance our mood and allows us to savor positive experiences.”
It’s easy to lose entire days in mindless distraction – and this is how we can feel that time is flying by. However if we practice mindfulness – noticing everything around us – our perception of time is slowed down.
So how do we practice mindfulness in daily life?
Our morning commute is a great opportunity. How many details of the commute do you see as mundane because it happens every day? What if you took the opportunity to see – really see – the journey with fresh eyes. What new things can you notice and really pay attention to? There is always something.
On my journey yesterday I was captivated by the formation of the clouds, and sat in wordless silence for nearly the entire journey just staring at them (it’s okay I was a passenger!).
Another opportunity I took last week was to practice this whilst sitting in the car waiting for my partner to finish an appointment. I noticed the colour of the cars parked on the street. The colours of the paint on the building, and the patterns of the shutters. I noticed the small butterfly that was alighted on the hedge in front of me. All small things that I could have easily missed by surfing the net on my phone instead.
In our society, multi-tasking is king. The more we achieve, the more we pack into a day – or weekend – the more successful we are deemed to be.
Mindfulness brings us the realisation that this is not true success.
Success is stopping to appreciate the small moments in each day – moments that we would otherwise miss in a rush of activity.
And the more aware we are of every small moment – every intricate detail of our day – the more satisfaction we will achieve, and the more time we will seem to have.
And that time is so much richer as a result.
Mindfulness is engaging fully with your life on a moment to moment basis.
Being mindful of the now and improving your present moment sense of comfort, tranquillity and serenity.