October 20, 2016

Chloe Chow, B.Sc., Psychosocial Consultant

Do you ever blink and then an entire year of life passes you by? Do you ever feel like you lay your head to rest on Monday night only to open your eyes and realize it’s the following Monday? This phenomenon is said to become more pronounced with age. It can be partially explained by the fact that with every year of life, a single year represents a smaller percentage of your lifetime. However, it is my personal belief that another contributing factor is that as we age, we lose our childlike wonder and with it, the power of the present moment. Do you remember how long a week felt when you were a young child with marvel in your eyes? An eternity. We savoured every second, expanding minutes with our minds, absorbing sensory input like small sponges of wonder.

Somewhere along the way, we lose the marvel. We lose our squeals of delight and the skip of our step. Time speeds up and escapes us. It can be difficult to grow up in a fast-paced society without getting tangled into its fast-paced culture. The need to succeed takes hold and we find ourselves falling into jobs, relationships, families and then rushing around to fulfill the roles we’ve fallen into. However, the fastness of things leaves us lacking fulfillment. We end up failing to notice peak moments when we’re in them because we’re already looking towards the next one. Studies show that we are remarkably bad at predicting how much happiness things will bring us, and that is largely because our minds adapt to our new situations to create new baselines of satisfaction and new wants.

We can’t say we weren’t warned. We were urged to stop and smell the roses, we were read Aesop’s The Tortoise and the Hare by well-intentioned parents, we were cautioned that slow and steady wins the race, and then of course we were informed that in fact it’s NOT a race, it’s a marathon. The importance of going slow has been impressed upon us by many a cliché. And yet, some of us still find ourselves dashing around from point A to point B.

So – how can we slow time down and live more fulfilling lives now? We can start by using mindfulness meditation. Practicing mindfulness meditation or moment-to-moment awareness shifts your attentional resources from the future to the now and will slow down your perception of time not only while you practice it, but extend afterwards as well.

The key to mindful meditation is to bring your awareness to the present moment, wherever you find yourself. Allow yourself to be flooded with sensory information. Visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile. Bringing intentional awareness to our sensory input adds a layer of consciousness that most of us don’t activate on a regular basis. We do occasionally – but tend to do so more when we are experiencing discomfort or unpleasantness. For the 9-to-5-ers this ability to slow down time is often activated in the last few minutes of the workday. For the runners, think of the last few minutes of your run, when your body is screaming for you to stop. High levels of physical exertion, adrenaline, and boredom all have the ability to kick our consciousness into high gear and drive us firmly into the now. If we can harness this power in times of pleasure, happiness and even neutrality we will feel more fulfilled in the places we find ourselves and the call of future ideations won’t be as importunate.

Allow yourself to just be. We’re a society obsessed with doing. We define ourselves by what we do for money and what we do for fun. Give yourself permission to be. We are human beings after all. Do not allow your shoulds to rush you into the future. You will get where you are going, and you will arrive in a better mood if you go slow.