Of course, we can’t actually slow down time – yet.
Whether it appears to be flying by or dragging on, our watches and clocks will tell us the measurement of a moment, an hour, a day, is the same.
So if time flies, how can we hang onto it a little longer? Or at least slow that flight into a more pleasant and calm walk?
The answer may be easier than you think.
Trying to understand the concept of time has confounded researchers since, well since time began.
It is defined as:
The measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues : a nonspatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future
The human urge to measure the days began with devices dating back thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians divided days into two 12-hour periods. They used large obelisks to track the sun’s movement. They then created what is known as shadow clocks. These devices were shaped like a cross bar and used the shadows produced by the device and the sun to calculate the different measures of the day.
The shadow clocks morphed into sundials. The oldest known sundial is from Egypt and it dates back to around 1500 BC. It was discovered in the Valley of the Kings in 2013.
The ancient Egyptians also developed water clocks, which did not rely on the sun’s presence so made it possible to measure on cloudy days and during the night.
Ancient civilizations in other parts of the world began making their own measuring devices, such as the candle clock, used in China, Japan and England, the time stick, used in India and Tibet and the hourglass which is still used in kitchens all over the world today.
Now, a glance at our mobile phones will tell us the time, show us a calendar and even track our minutes and seconds if we choose.
It seems the easier it is to tell the time, the more difficult it becomes to control.
Our days are divided into little compartments of ‘must dos’. Waking, working, eating and sleeping are just the outlines that are filled with a million little tasks to cram into a day.
It seems most people I talk to are feeling the stress of time or, more accurately, the lack of it.
Many of my peers shared my illusion that at this stage of life, with children all grown and many of us in semi (if not full) retirement, there would be more time.
Instead, we find ourselves busier than ever which is giving us the illusion that we are losing time.
When I think about all the things I try to pack into some days, it can make me physically sick.
The stress of a busy life can be debilitating. The stress of a boring life can be just as dangerous to our mental and physical well-being.
The fact is we can neither gain nor lose time. It goes along minute by minute just the same, regardless of how we are using it.
What we can control is our perception of time. We have the power to make it feel as though time is standing still or slowing down.
The technique used to do this will give us better memories as well.
The trick? Mindfulness. By being IN the moment, we can make it last longer – or at least feel that way.
Do you have an electric toothbrush or a timing device for brushing?
If you do, you will notice that sometimes those few minutes of brushing will fly by. On other occasions, you will wonder if the brush or timing device has broken as those minutes feel like forever.
What’s the difference? The amount of time you spend brushing has not changed.
What’s has changed is your thought process.
If you are allowing your thoughts to fly all over the place, the brushing time will also fly.
If you are stressing about getting through the task so you can move onto other jobs, the activity will seem to drag and you will be adding to your stress.
BE IN THE MOMENT TO MAKE IT LAST
If on the other hand, you focus on the brushing, paying attention to cleaning each individual tooth, the time won’t even matter. It will feel like it has stopped.
It may seem like a waste to make it feel as though time has stopped when brushing your teeth. This feeling is usually associated with feelings of joy and awe.
However, it’s a great way to become centred and good mindfulness practice.
Used in another context, you could take those same few minutes to just STOP when you are feeling overwhelmed.
Go into the garden and choose one spot to focus on. Notice the colour of the plants, the smell of the flowers, the sounds of the insects and birds. Fully focus on your surroundings. You may even discover some of nature’s hidden treasures.
If the garden isn’t practical, find a picture or photograph. Focus fully on each detail, concentrating so much that no other thought can intrude.
If you are fully focused when you do this, it will feel as if time has stopped and those few minutes can be just as invigorating as a week long holiday.
SLOW DOWN TIME AND REDUCE STRESS
Research shows that focusing on the moment and actively noticing the things around us can change our perception of time so it appears to slow down.
On the other hand, when we fill our days with unfocused business, it feels like we are losing time.
Neuroscientist Dr David Eagleman refers to time as a ‘rubbery thing’ that changes depending on our mental engagement.
Dr Eagleman studies time perception and has conducted research which indicates that adding novelty, or actively noticing new things around us, helps to keep time from flying. It also enhances and expands our retrospective memories.
Time can slip by because we are blindly going through the routine of our day.
Dr David Eagleman
Taking time to fully focus on a given moment can reduce stress and help with depression, according to clinical psychologist Dr Steven Meyers.
People experiencing these issues can worsen their situation by allowing their minds to drift off as they ruminate about their problems, according to Professor Meyers.
“Research highlights yet another benefit of mindfulness: It allows us to better appreciate the events and people around ourselves rather than feeling like we’re living our days in a blur.”
I recognise the fact it is not practical to BE in the moment, every moment.
Life often demands we resort to multitasking and thinking, even when we know it can make us less efficient and be harmful.
This is particularly true for entrepreneurs who tend to live and breathe their business goals.
However, being super focused for a few minutes, giving you the sense that time has slowed, can enhance efficiency by making you calmer (and happier) and revitalising your mind.
Wishing you many focused moments and a gleeful week, Tamuria.