How to slow down when life speeds up

How to slow down when life speeds up
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on September 6, 2016

It may be Monday “mourning,” but I know by Friday I’ll be wondering where the week went.

How (and when) did my weeks jump to hyperspace? And how can I slow down my life?

Time perception

Time doesn’t speed up or slow down, but scientific research demonstrates why we perceive time to be shifty.

The work of neuroscientist David Eagleman indicates the more routine our lives become, particularly as we age, our brains get used to that routine and don’t need to record as much of our experience.  So, the thinner, the briefer, the detail available to recall, the more time seems to take flight.

Brain scans also show when experiences are new, particularly in youth, or evoke stress or high intensity, the amygdala takes over the brain and records every little detail of those experiences.  Upon recall, the density of the memory material creates the perception of time slowing.

So, to stop my life from flashing before my eyes, I realized the solutions were clear:  Shake things up and embrace deeper mindfulness.

Shake things up

I decided to commit to three adventures during the week to break the work/dinner/bed/repeat cycle.

Some examples:

I met people for walks after work before going home. I toted food to the park, sat on a blanket and enjoyed a dinner picnic. I ditched the television, got a telescope, and combed the night sky for constellations (and invited someone over).  I slept in a different room or on the couch. I ran errands or finished housecleaning during the week to leave my weekends free for out-of-town adventures.  I read at the bookstore cafe instead of home. I saw a movie on a Tuesday night by myself.

Daily change-ups to refresh my brain didn’t have to be epic.  I tried these:

I rearranged the furniture and moved pictures around on the walls.  I took a different route on my drive home.  I carried my purse on the other shoulder and switched my watch to a different wrist. I shopped at different grocery stores.   I changed my hair color and cut my hair even shorter.

Embrace Mindfulness

The meditative practice of mindfulness locked me in the moment, and I could reboot my senses.  I tried these:

Three times a day, I sat in Sukhasana, cross legged and on the ground. I closed my eyes and counted 50 breaths.

I isolated sound. I sat anywhere: home, a corner at work, outside. With my eyes closed, I noted what I heard. The air conditioning. Voices outside the door. My computer’s hum. Birds. I chose one sound and focused on it. I amplified it until it drowned all others.

I fasted one day per week. I drank only hot water with lemon. I sipped it, and I was grateful.

I invested in a blindfold, and turned off sight. I ate blindfolded. I allowed a friend to take me by the hand and guide me through the house blindfolded.  I threw foul shots blindfolded. I journaled, painted and drew blindfolded.

Every hour, on the hour, I closed my eyes for one minute.

For one day, didn’t buy anything. I monitored what compelled me to open my wallet.

A favorite is not speaking for a day.

My brain recorded the sensual material, impregnated every moment, and prolonged the memories.  Time, instead of flying, slowed.

 

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