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4 Ways To Slow Down Your Perception Of Time

 

Most people complain about not having the time to do the stuff they claim to want but never really pursue. An important piece of living well as you age that most never consider, is taking advantage of the fact that time perception is entirely a construction of the brain. By slowing down the perceived passage of time, you seemingly have more of it and live longer - and better.

 

Stop thinking of time as money (even if it is).

Increasing value breeds scarcity, even if it’s just the perception of scarcity. So when we think of our time as money, our time gets more valuable - and more scarce. And instead of packing our schedules full of interesting experiences, we work longer to make more money. Reading for pleasure becomes wasteful. Sitting down to dinner with the family is an extravagance you have trouble justifying. The time we do take as leisure becomes more overrun with worry that we could be doing more.

Embrace novelty.

Time passes slowly for children in part because everything they’re seeing, doing, experiencing, smelling, hearing, and tasting is new and takes up a larger portion of their memory. They’ve only just arrived on this plane of existence and their brains are working overtime to process an abundance of novelty. Each experience is fascinating.

Compare that with the average adult working a 9-5. They get up at the same time every morning. They eat the same breakfast. They take the same route to work. They sit down at their desk and perform the same tasks they performed yesterday and every day prior. Everything is routine. The brain doesn’t have to work to process any new information or remember the specifics. It’s the same thing day in, day out. They can’t really remember what they did one, two, three days ago - not because they’re going senile at age 33 but because every day is the same and the brain literally doesn’t see the need to retain the memory of each. This is precisely when days slip into months.. into years.

It turns out that “with repeated presentations of a stimulus, a sharpened representation or a more efficient encoding is achieved in the neural network that codes for the object, affording lower metabolic costs.” In other words, doing the same routine every day barely registers in the brain. You don’t notice it. You don’t remember doing it. Thus, entire days are lost.

Novelty can be objectively exciting things like taking a pottery class, skydiving, rock climbing, or taking a salsa class.. but small changes work, too - for example, take an alternate route to work OR go to your favorite restaurant and order a different menu item than your usual order.

Work smarter.

We’re more productive, sure. We have dozens of high-tech tools to help us multitask and communicate with anyone at a moment’s notice. We can find the most arcane bit of knowledge in under a minute. It’s all saving us time, right?

Except we’re working more than ever. And when we’re not working, we’re thinking about work. Or we’re turning our leisure time into work by trying to “optimize” it. We tell ourselves we’re saving time, but we’re really chasing the optimization dragon. Few ever condense work to a few productive hours each day and spend the bulk of their time enjoying the moment. It just doesn’t happen. Instead, we just use our productivity gains to spend even more time working.

Avoid multitasking. Stick to the task at hand. Don’t go flitting off into Wikipedia. Don’t have so many tabs open that the favicons disappear.

 

Disconnect. Go into nature.

Researchers discovered that people who are constantly connected to technology perceive time to flow faster. We’re slaves to technology AND the clock. In the wilderness, there are none. Rather than seconds and minutes, out there time is measured in seasons, sunrises and sunsets, temperature changes. It’s a much grander thing embedded in the landscape itself. The linear tick of a digital display cannot hope to contain it.

 

2 Comments

  1. Michael on December 31, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    Not sure why your posts don’t get more attention! I like your point about disconnecting from technology and connecting more with nature. I raise my kids to enjoy the outdoors, as I appreciate my childhood, and cal recall thinking that the days were so long and fun-filled.

  2. Gabby Matson on December 31, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    Since I was a kid I can remember my parents and grandparents saying to me “enjoy being young. the older you get, the faster time goes by.” My friends can all remember people this to them too! THIS NEEDS TO STOP! We are forgetting how to enjoy the moments of each day and truly live a full life. Too many distractions to keep our minds reeling over numbing or routine experiences.

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