I just came back from a two-week long vacation to Greece.
The place where I was born and raised.
I walked down old streets, swam inside the blue sea and talked to the people I have known as a kid.
I saw a solar eclipse and watched the orange full moon on top of the waves at least three nights in a row.
But the most mind-bending experience was how I felt about being back there.
I felt as if I was there much longer than I was.
Every day felt like a whole week.
And I knew I had to find out why that was.
Over the last few years, time has gone by so much faster than before.
Stepping completely outside of my daily routine and environment for two weeks slowed everything down.
Today as I was researching I finally stumbled upon why that was.
I felt as if I have been looking for this specific information all of my life.
So here is what I discovered.
And you know what?
The good news is that we can absolutely slow down time now that we know what I am about to tell you.
So when we were kids every day was a brand new experience.
How we played with our friends.
How we perceived the world.
We created richer more diverse memories then.
Everything was new.
“When you’re a child, you lay down rich memories for all your experiences; when you’re older, you’ve seen it all before and lay down fewer memories.
Therefore, when a child looks back at the end of a summer, it seems to have lasted forever; adults think it zoomed by.” David Eagleman
When we were younger we experienced more things in one day.
And the truth is, extra memories make time feel longer.
The same for when we are in danger, time feels like it slows down.
Now I know why my early grief years after my husband died felt like they lasted a whole century.
Time slowed down because I was sad and terrified.
“When a person is scared, a brain area called the amygdala becomes more active, laying down an extra set of memories that go along with those normally taken care of by other parts of the brain.
“In this way, frightening events are associated with richer and denser memories, and the more memory you have of an event, the longer you believe it took.” David Eagleman
But we don’t have to experience danger or grief to make time feel longer.
The thing to remember here is that the more memory we have of an event the longer we believe it takes.
For example if each day this week, I wake up, I drink coffee, I shower, I work until 5 then I pick up the kids, come home, help them with their homework and go back, then my days will feel as if they are flying by.
The memories I am creating are not rich or dense.
They are repetitions of the day before.
No new memories.
But if we try and add something new each day then boom.
Life gets longer.
I know, I know easier said than done.
“So unless we bring forth rich experiences every day, time will go by really really fast.
The problem of stretching time is a lot like mastering a skill.
Initially, there are no habits to guide you, so learning is intense and time slows.
Eventually, habits form and you plateau.
The solution, in the case of mastering a skill, is to constantly avoid equilibrium.
Always push to the edge of your incompetence, deliberately break your routines, and force big challenges on yourself.” – Scott H. Young
Pushing to the edge of yourself every day somehow will extend your perception of time.
And isn’t that everything?
I mean isn’t it?
“Our brain encodes new experiences, but not familiar ones, into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period.
In other words, the more new memories we build on a weekend getaway, the longer that trip will seem in hindsight.”
This is called the holiday paradox, ironically.
“From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills. As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments.
As a result, our early years tend to be relatively overrepresented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer.” Scientific American
So, my dear friend, we have no choice but to exit the loop of routine if not many times a day definitely once a day.
We owe it to ourselves.
I won’t be able to go on another holiday for a while but here is what I am planning on doing. Next time I want to hike, I find a new place to do so.
When I go out for dinner, I look for a new restaurant.
I must make new friends and go find new coffee shops to write from.
Move to new houses frequently.
Try new forms of exercise.
Learn another language.
Anything and everything that is not familiar. I seek to find.
Will you do the same?
Because life doesn’t have to be short. It really doesn’t.
Christina Rasmussen is the creator and founder of The Life Reentry Institute, Second Firsts, The Life Starters and Star Letters. Christina is on a crusade to help millions of people rebuild, reclaim, and relaunch their lives using the power of their own minds. Christina’s work has been featured on ABC News, NPR, The White House Blog, and MariaShriver.com. She is the bestselling author of Second Firsts: Live, Laugh, and Love Again, which has also been translated in Chinese and German and is currently working on her second book on expanding the mind in ways that allows co-creation with the forces of the universe. She is also writing her first work of fiction: a science fiction story about a woman on a quest to start over and begin a new life. You can find more information on her website and follow her on FB or Twitter.
Image courtesy of Isabelle Bruce.