Speeding up or Slowing down? #Monday Musings

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Over the past couple of months, I’ve felt unnerved by how time has been speeding up. I won’t deny that I’ve felt weighed down by a sense of disillusionment as to where the days, or months, or even years went. 

This week I’ve been asking myself this – Why does it happen that as we grow older, the world starts to become more familiar and we learn less and there seems to be less adventure, play, exploration, creativity and the sense of wonder to invite and engage with newness?

Perhaps the reason is that as we encounter the familiar, time seems to constrict and when we acquire new knowledge, it expands. The way we spend our time influences how we perceive it. So the choices we make about what to do now impacts how we’ll manage our time later. Neuroscience believes this could be due to the relationship between time’s elasticity and whether your brain is processing new information – this dictates why time seems to turn up the tempo as we age. 

Thankfully, we’re not doomed yet. And, we do not have to march to the relentless beat of time. Our sense of time can be moulded, to move to our own beat. You could say thats one way we could slow down time.

Today, I’ll share my learning about the two ways in which we can potentially make our days richer and more memorable so that our sense of time expands and life doesn’t pass us by as if in a dream: we must counteract routines and fill our time with new experiences.

The idea of time speeding up as we grow older has been around for a long time. Way back in 1890, William James identified how the automatic nature of routines means that learning isn’t really taking place. He described this exact experience in his Principles of Psychology:

In youth, we may have an absolutely new experience, subjective or objective, every hour of the day. Apprehension is vivid, retentiveness strong, and our recollections of that time, like those of a time spent in rapid and interesting travel, are of something intricate, multitudinous and long-drawn-out. But as each passing year converts some of this experience into automatic routine which we hardly note at all, the days and the weeks smooth themselves out in recollection to contentless units, and the years grow hollow and collapse.

It is easy to see why major changes are needed in our routine lives in order to break that monotony and fill up our time up with new experiences and knowledge to form accessible memory anchors. 

Over the years, as we get set into predictable routines, we need to turn our brain resources to new challenges by way of projects and learning new tasks or skills. This explains why some of us believe in lifelong learning in order to keep our minds in shape at all times. It is just not children who should be asking questions. In fact, even we need to probe further and ask questions to exercise our curiosity muscles. Why not take a trip or change up our environment more often? Or maybe, to embrace the inner child within us and go exploring, even if it’s just to stretch ourselves a little.

The sense of wistfulness and disappointment is never more acute than when we reflect upon our life, especially when we notice the passage of yet another month or birthday or year — when we haven’t really made any progress on the things we wanted to do.

As we begin another week, I’m trying to put my intentions into practice and fill in my time with a new experience each week. That way, I can also take the time to celebrate my progress leaving behind a succession of memories to look back on, when I think about the passage of time. The thought behind this is that making and recognizing progress not only builds up intrinsic motivation, but also prevents us from slipping into the hollowness of automatic, forgettable routines. There are lots of relevant and remarkable milestones, all along the way that we can create as we keep adding new experiences into our lives.

Now, that I’ve shared my thoughts, tell me what is your take on this? Do you feel happy and contented looking back on your progress? Or are you, like me, trying to make sense of all this?

                    (Linking this with #Monday Musings on everyday gyaan)

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19 thoughts

    1. Something new to learn keeps you on your feet…I like that!Thank you so much for your kind words of appreciation, Vasantha!

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    1. Suzy, that’s a great attitude that only comes from a life well-lived! It is living in these everyday moments that make us realise that we are alive!

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  1. Actually, I am content with my life so far and want to learn new things in future. I am enjoying my life and there is no pressure of making a progress every year. I pick up every opportunity to try new things and make it enjoyable.

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    1. Ramya, contentment is one of life’s greatest blessings. I hope life always treats you kind and you find the novelty in everyday moments as you keep collecting new experiences on the way!

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  2. If you ask me I will tell you I am happy and contended at the progress I have made over the past years, in many ways but still I feel time is moving very fast. That means there is scope to make changes in my routine and it is not going to be easy because we live with school going children. The only new things that I practice every alternate day is new yoga asanas.

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    1. Yoga is a great way to bring in alertness and agility that is needed to keep up with our kids. Not a minute to pause before there are curious quests for mamma to try out. Contentment brings bliss that is hard to equal and perhaps the only way to reach a happy state in the midst of chaos of the everyday life.

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  3. I loved your post and how you to teamed it up with psychology. It’s so true. I do feel that things are going very fast but at the same time, I am experiencing new things and I am letting myself be amazed. As a couple we did not get time to travel when we were seeing each other. Now, with time – we are exploring new places to travel and things to keep us focused and going.
    So looking back, I feel good and I want to say this 10 years later too 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much, Parul! I think you’re doing the right thing by taking it easy and investing in the quality time as a couple! There is no better time as NOW to do this. I am certain that ten years on, you will have a veritable treasure of memories to relate to us all, provided I’m still around until then (hopefully!) 😊👍

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  4. Oh I’m still trying to make sense of it all but then there are days when I feel happy with how I have evolved ..But again there are days when I feel really bad about the transition in me..I guess I still don’t have just one answer…Does it make sense?

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    1. Guess, that is how life is…one minute it seems we’ve cracked it, the next minute we are vexed with the perennial questions…sometimes it is better not to look for answers to everything coz there aren’t any! Take one day at a time…that’s what I do at such times!

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  5. I guess we’re all trying to make sense of it all, Esha. But having said that, life has settled into a nice pattern of quiet days which, for the most part, I define how I want to spend. I think with age comes acceptance and I’m learning to focus on what I can do each day and live without regrets.

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    1. Well said, Corinne! Good to know that things are settled for you! It is nice, isn’t it, to be able to reach that point, when our inner lives fill up with gratitude to know that we are able to take one day at a time and live in peace.

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  6. Esha I have held this belief for long, the moment we start thinking that time is running we aren’t that we are forced to change. For good. So I would like to say that maybe with these things on your mind, magical ideas will flow. For sure 🙂

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