When I wrote my last blog about Time Passages, I got to thinking about how to slow down time. Does anyone have a time machine? Surely there must be something we can do. If you think about it, perception is key. If you are sitting in the shade, reading a book, and sipping on a cool beverage, time will pass slowly. If you are rushing around trying to get supper on the table and out the door to that meeting or activity, time will fly. Remember that the speed at which time goes by is subjective. A minute is a minute. It’s like the philosophical question, “What would you rather have fall on you, a ton of feathers or a ton of bricks?” At least with time, we have some control over how it seems to pass.
Fortunately, there are many ways to slow down time, without reliving it. I’ll be the first to admit that I usually forget to take my own advice and it’s only when I’m relaxing that I remember some of the tricks I’ve picked up along the way. Maybe we can make a pact together, right here, right now, to try and change our perception of time. Here are a few ideas to get us started.
- Pay attention to how you spend your time. Yes, you heard me. Track it! Keep a log for a few days and see just how much time you spend exercising, eating, watching TV, scrolling on your phone or computer, sleeping, etc. Do a time audit. Once you’ve discovered a pattern, it will be easier to decide if you are making the best use of your time. You may notice you are spending quite a bit of time on certain tasks. Can you change that? Can you lump some things together or only do them once in a while? That’s my approach to housework!
- Pay attention to the little things. If you read my last blog, you will know that time passes slower when we are younger because we are always experiencing new things. As we age, there are fewer new things to pay attention to, especially if we don’t leave our comfort zone. So, try looking around more. Look at your immediate surroundings. Note how that houseplant suddenly has new shoots. Watch the cobwebs in the corner of the living room gently flutter in the breeze. (Too much information!) Go for a walk and look at the signs of the changing season, the neighbourhood landscape, and the barking dogs behind the fence.
- Switch up your routine. Go for a walk before your morning coffee. Bad idea, right? Maybe you could have that coffee, go for a walk, and then check your email. Change your laundry day. Get groceries on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. Small changes mean big gains. You can even take a different route to the gym, the shops, or wherever you are going. Pay attention to the road signs, of course, but also look at the different buildings, landscaping, and people, along the way.
- Stop multitasking. What? For the last few decades, we’ve mastered the fine art of multitasking. But, really, why do we need to do it now? We have time! Focus on just one thing. Everything else will wait.
- Leave your comfort zone and experience something new. You did this all the time as a kid. What made you stop?
Although these are all simple and user-friendly ideas, my favourite way to slow down time is to practice mindfulness. I don’t do it as often as I should, but I do strongly believe in the importance and benefits of mindfulness.
What is mindfulness? Well, simply put, it is the state of being fully aware of one’s physical and mental state. You’re “in the zone” or “focused”. Often, I find myself on autopilot. My mind is off in a zillion different directions, and suddenly I find myself wondering how I arrived at my destination in one piece (or did I?) I wonder where the sandwich on my plate went. Did I really eat it? Why am I so stiff? Oh! I’ve been sitting in the same position for an hour. No wonder!
Our minds and bodies encounter a lot of stimuli at an alarming rate. Our senses are constantly on alert, so much so that we have developed ways to ignore what they are telling us. Right now, ask yourself: are you comfortable with the way you are sitting? Can you feel any tingling in your legs or feet? Any pressure on your neck and shoulders? What about your jaw? Do you feel hot or cold? On a scale of one to 10, how comfortable are you, really? Being aware, or mindful, of our physical and mental surroundings is important to bring us more peace, which in turn will bring us more energy, calm our thoughts, and reduce stress. As we age, this becomes more important. And of course, being mindful will slow down your perception of how quickly time is passing. Just try it!
Mindfulness is not new. Its roots are in Hinduism and Buddhism, and it has been practiced for thousands of years. It moved from the East to the West largely in the 1970s, thanks to people like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, and Joseph Goldstein.
“Mindfulness meditation is a practice founded over 2500 years ago,” says Jennifer Keane, a Saskatoon-based clinical counsellor. “Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment with curiosity and kindness. It helps us accept change by paying close attention to its many forms and responding with wisdom and a sense of humour.”
If you’re not sure where to start your mindfulness practice, Jennifer recommends noticing the breath. “How we breathe has an impact on our health and well-being. Rapid, shallow breaths activate the sympathetic nervous system, raising heart rate and suppressing digestion, while longer, slower breathing activates the parasympathetic system, the body’s rest and digestive systems, and creates a calming effect. As we slow our breath, we can also pay attention to the body, perhaps noticing tightness, aches, and pains that we can gently soften with the breath.”
Paying attention to your breathing can be done anywhere and anytime. When I’m feeling a bit anxious, I like to stop what I’m doing and take three deep, slow breaths. This simple act really calms me down and allows me to come back to reality and be present in the moment. Time slows down. It’s amazing, trust me!
“When we choose to notice life’s beauty and pleasure, no matter how we feel about growing older, we are more likely to enjoy and cherish this life we are living,” says Jennifer.
How true. So, breathe. Be mindful of your surroundings and be mindful of yourself. Enjoy the ride at whatever speed you choose.
Interesting Reads & Things
All it takes is 10 mindful minutes | Andy Puddicombe – YouTube
Why Mindfulness Is a Superpower: An Animation – YouTube
The Neuroscience of Mindfulness – What exactly happens to your brain when you meditate. – YouTube
How to Be Mindful in Everyday Life | 25 Ways to Practice Mindfulness – YouTube
Mindfulness exercises – Mayo Clinic
What is Mindfulness: Benefits, How to Practice, and More (healthline.com)
How to Slow Down Time: The Practice of Mindfulness (stenzelclinical.com)