Every now and then I catch myself wanting time to pass by faster. There is so much I want to do in life, so much to explore and learn, that I visualize what the future will look like and sometimes stay there mentally.. Whenever this happens, I notice that I start to lose focus and get demotivated to do the things I need to do in the present. This is not new to me and I have caught myself many times in the act. I then decide to slow down and enjoy the moment, and this really works to be at ease with myself and with life in general.
I believe that this is something we can all experience and I want to discuss it. This week I write about how we perceive time differently, different from one and other but also different from situations or states we are in. I will not dive into the concept of time. That is a rabbit hole that I will dive into another time. Today I discuss how you can influence your own perception of time.
“The perceived speed of time is so much dependent on the speed at which our brain updates the content of our consciousness, i.e. the speed at which we experience the world.”
― Jean Paul Zogby
Imagine walking in a forest with you feeling neutral, maybe even appreciating the walk and nature. All of a sudden you hear an unexpected noise. You start to look around you to see if you can spot the thing/animal/person that caused that noise. You start to listen closely to the sounds around you to be attentive of that same noise. Your senses are heightened and your attention is focused on yourself and your surroundings. Is time going fast or slow?
A different situation can be when you have a job interview coming up. You have been thinking about it every day for two weeks now. It makes you anxious to think of it, because a lot is depending on you getting this job. You feel nervous, tense and tired. Is time passing fast or slow?
Apparently we perceive time differently whenever we are anxious or fearful. Fear is more immediate and is supposed to slow down time, where anxiety is a prolonged state and actually speeds it up. There is a golden nugget to take from these examples. If you look at the first example, you are in an acute emotional state which triggers you to be focused on the present. The second example is a prolonged state, in which you are thinking about a situation continuously, distracting you from the current moment. Distracting you from the present.
You could think of the perception of time being on a continuum. On one end you have time passing by really slow (too slow) and on the other end you have time passing by really fast (too fast). For example, people who have a depression can experience time to pass by really slow.
“The slower your brain is in processing sensory information, the faster time seems to run. This seemingly inverse relationship is important to understand why we sometimes experience time as speeding up or slowing down. So how fast are we actually processing reality?”
― Jean Paul Zogby
If you want to slow down time, focus on the present. Practicing Mindfulness, focusing on your breathing, on the way your clothes touch your skin, but also on the simple chores such as washing the dishes, are great methods to slow down time. Here I’ll share some things you can do to return your mind to the present moment:
- Breathing exercises: simple breathing exercises allow you to focus your attention to your breathing. It helps you to gain focus and clarity on the here and now. I wrote a blog about different breathing exercises if you want to check it out, click here.
- Draw: stop what you are doing and make a drawing. Give yourself 5-10 minutes to draw something of your liking. You can choose anything else. The key is to find an activity that requires your attention, in doing so your mind doesn’t drift off.
- Body-scan: this one is a bit more complex, but it really helps you to focus on yourself, your physical body and your mental state. In a meditative state you can literally scan your body, starting with your toes and going through all your body parts until you have reached your head. How is everything feeling? Do you feel any tension? What emotions are you feeling? Which thoughts are passing by? Important is not to judge any of these sensations, but merely observe them.
- Reward yourself: give yourself a high-five. You don’t have to be ‘perfect’ to meditate or to do a breathing exercise. You are amazing for trying, because in the act of stopping your thoughts and trying to be present you are breaking a pattern. So don’t be too hard on yourself and celebrate the success, no matter how small.
If you would like to share your story and/or insights, or if you know someone who would want to, please let me know! You can send me a message or an e-mail. More contact information can be found here. Let’s grow together.