The older we get, the faster the years pass, but what if there was a way to slow things down and savour every moment?
Do you remember how long the summer holidays felt when you were a kid? Weeks stretched out like aeons, and the next school year was but a distant dream. As we grow up, those weeks seem to shrink. Suddenly, we find ourselves in disbelief – not quite sure how another year has passed.
Time is a tricky thing, and our perception of it can stretch and shrink. When we’re young, we haven’t got many years under our belts, so it tracks that years feel longer (for a 10-year-old, one year is 10% of their life). Children are also developing, soaking up new information and growing. They’re having more new experiences, and creating formative memories.
As adults, one year feels like a blink of an eye compared to the number of years we’ve been around. We have far fewer new experiences, and tend not to be learning and growing at such a rapid pace. Days become more formulaic and predictable, making them seamlessly blend together. After all, our brains can only hold onto a certain amount of memories, so unless we do something out of the ordinary, we’re likely to let go of the same-y ones.
Now we understand why time rushes past as we age, what can we do to slow our perception of time?
1. Inject some new experiences
Routine and sameness makes the days whizz by, so try to incorporate spontaneity into your life. Taking trips to explore new places, learning a new skill, and connecting with new people are all brilliant ways to do this, but it can be as simple as finding a different lunchtime walking route, or changing up where you’re working from.
Tap into your inner child and see the world through their lens. Ask ‘Why?’ more often, say yes even when it scares you, and follow the threads of your curiosity – see where you end up.
2. Pay attention and savour more
An easy way to hit the pause button in your daily life is to be more mindful and pay attention. This may be noticing the gorgeous light streaming through the window, taking a minute to relish your morning coffee, or even being fully present during a conversation.
Savouring is about really enjoying and taking in every detail of something. This may look like going for a walk and focusing on the way the sunshine feels on your skin, or taking pictures of the flowers you pass. Try engaging all your senses and notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. When we stop to pay attention, we pull ourselves out of auto-pilot, and plant ourselves in the present.
3. Start single-tasking
When we try to do many things at once, our attention flits around like a butterfly which, understandably, can make it feel as if time’s going by faster. Single-tasking encourages us to focus on one thing at a time which, as well as improving productivity, can help us slow down the perception of time.
So, next time you have a task to do, shut out any distractions and focus on that, and only that.
4. Carve out some white space
The more we stuff our time with to-dos, the more our days feel rushed. We slip into reactive mode, and lack a sense of spaciousness. One way to change this is to intentionally carve out white space, i.e. space to do nothing. Space to stare at the clouds, to just listen to music, to daydream.
When we do this, we stimulate the default mode network in our brain. This acts like a factory reset, helping you to recognise how you’re feeling and where you’re ‘at’.
5. Start a reflective practice
Finding a way to reflect on your days is a wonderful way to capture the passing of time, and give it the weight of significance it deserves. You may want to try journaling, drawing, scrapbooking, or even just chatting about your day with a loved one.
Here are some reflective prompts to get you started:
What felt good today?
What small moment do you want to remember about today?
What excited you most today?
Hopefully these ideas will help you slow things down and embrace the day-to-day because, as motivational speaker Michael Altshuler said, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”
If you want to thrive, not just survive, you may find it helpful to chat with a coach, or visit Life Coach Directory to learn more.