Since having a baby, there’s a conversation people love to have with me, and it goes something like this: Wow, isn’t time flying by? How is she so big? Where has the time gone?! Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that she was born? Soon she’ll be one!
I’m sure even if you haven’t recently had a baby you regularly have a version of this conversation, so you’ll know that the socially-acceptable response is: Yes! I know! Time IS flying by! It seems like the last few months have gone by in the blink of an eye! Can you believe it’s already October?
Two years ago, however, I declared a moratorium on this kind of talk, and I’ve stuck to it ever since. I purposefully try not to let the passing of time be a topic of conversation, especially in reference to its speed. I just refuse to let that be the way I see my life.
It’s more than that, though. It’s not just that I refuse to admit that time is whizzing by; it’s that I really don’t feel like it is. January 7 feels just about exactly as far away as it should at this point, no more, no less. And the trick to that, I think, is something I learned from a very random Art of Manliness article I somehow stumbled on a few years ago. The article is absolutely worth reading in full, but here were my biggest a-has:
Number one: Because our perception of time is intricately tied up with our emotions and memories, our minds filter the info before presenting it to us. When confronted with a scary or novel experience, our brains go into overdrive, recording much more detail than normal. Because the brain lays down such rich, dense memories of those moments, when we later look back on the experience, there’s a lot more “footage” than normal to run through, making the experience seem like it lasted longer than it actually did. On the other hand, when the brain encounters something familiar over and over, it doesn’t have to expend as much time and energy recognizing or recording it.
Number two: There are two types of time perception: prospective and retrospective. Prospective time occurs when you’re in the moment. When you’re busy and a lot is happening, it seems like time is going by quickly. If you’re in a boring meeting, however, you have nothing else to do besides watch the minutes tick by, which makes time seem to slow way down. Retrospective time is how you think on these episodes after the fact. If you’ve been doing something boring, your brain won’t have recorded much “footage,” so it will seem like a quick episode – nothingness – in your memory. If you look back on that boring meeting, it barely registers as a happening in your brain. But when you reflect on a novel experience, your mind has plenty of detailed footage for you to peruse.
Based on this info, one of the best ways to slow down time, and the one I feel has had the biggest effect on my year, is to inject novelty into every day. I have a baby who’s always growing and learning and trying new things, so change hasn’t been hard to come by for the last few months! Being present and experiencing everything alongside her has made time seem to stretch out in the most wonderful way. But I’ve noticed that even little things, like taking a different route on our evening walk, eating dinner on the front porch instead of inside, or doing a crossword puzzle instead of scrolling the internet at night also stretch out my perception of time. Same with going out to a new restaurant on Friday night instead of watching TV on the sofa – the weekend seems so much longer!!
It’s not an overstatement to say that these realizations and small adjustments have changed my life (and my perception of my life!), so I hope they’re equally enlightening to y’all!