I remember an advert from about ten or fifteen years ago that really struck a chord with me. The advert for X-Box featured a baby being born and then being hurtled at break neck speed through time. As he flew through time he aged from a baby to a child, from a child to a teenager and an adult to an old man who finally crashed into his own grave. The ad ended with the simple slogan ‘Life is Short’. It was a somewhat shocking depiction of life as we know it but one which likely resonates with many…
Maybe it’s because I am getting older or maybe it’s because my children have become my time markers but it seems the older I get, the more time speeds up. When I was younger, I wanted time to go quickly. I could never wait for the next birthday, the next Christmas or the next holiday. I couldn’t wait to grow up. Time moved, it seemed, so much slower as a child and the summer holidays seemed to stretch on endlessly. I could say the summer holidays still feel like they stretch on endlessly but for very different reasons(!) but in all truth, as the start of each school summer holiday swings by, I find myself blinking and wondering where that last year went.
Of course our perception of time can vary depending on the situation. A ten minute queue in the post office or in a traffic jam can feel like an agonising length of time yet an evening at a great social event can go by in a heartbeat. It would seem the more we fill our lives and the busier we are, the faster each day seems to pass. I often feel like time is my enemy because I’m always fighting against it. I always have too many boxes to tick, too many things to do. Perhaps that is my failing. I simply try to do too much.
I am not complaining about my life because I know how lucky I am to have my health, my children, love and security, but it would seem the flip side being that the more fulfilled you are in life, the more time flies! Maybe I’ve just got sentimental with age and recognise how precious life is. The saying it’s a marathon, not a sprint often springs to mind. Life is the marathon, but I, like many, feel like I’m sprinting my way through when I really should be slowing down. Perhaps I need to stand in more post office queues or jump in my car and do a circuit of the M25 at rush hour. I’m sure time would feel infinite then. However, I am certain there are more satisfying ways to make the clock tick a little slower, even if just for a day…
The Power of Mindfulness
There is a theory that the reason time can slip by so quickly is because we are blindly going through the routine of our day on autopilot. Our mind is full of busy thoughts and things we need to do. We are so consumed by these thoughts and this daily routine that our brain has little time to absorb our surroundings due to the pace it is processing the information inside our heads. Have you ever taken a car journey you have done many times before and arrived at your destination with little memory of how you got there? Life can feel a bit like that, particularly when our routine is familiar. We hit autopilot and allow our mind to drift from one place to the next, back and forth through time, role playing possible outcomes of situations, planning ahead or reflecting. While experiencing these thought processes time has no anchor because we are simply not present or being aware of our current surroundings. Time as we know it is divided up into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and years. A day can literally fly by when we are busy and focussed but as an exercise, if we were to sit down and observe time without pressure, we would realise that actually one minute can itself feel like a reasonable amount of time!
So how do we slow down time? The reality is, we can’t literally slow down time (unless of course you’re superman!) but what we can do is alter our perception of time by practising ‘mindfulness’. Mindfulness is a practice with deep roots in Buddist philosophy and which is becoming increasingly popular in Western society but what exactly does it mean?
Simply put, mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique”. Used as a simple form of meditation by focussing on your breath and the moment that you are in can help calm your mind. It is not time that therefore slows down but you, yourself.
You do not have to sit crossed legged on the floor to experience mindfulness. You can incorporate it regularly into your daily routine. It is impractical to perhaps engage in mindfulness consistently throughout your day but you can treat it like mental exercise at certain points of your day. When taking a walk for example, rather than allowing yourself to be wrapped up in your thoughts, instead be aware of your surroundings. Take in how the world around you sounds, smells and feels. Watch how the trees sway in the wind or how the birds circle above. Clear your mind of any thoughts and simply observe and allow your brain to record the information around you. By being so perceptively aware, a moment can feel like a very long time…
The Importance of ‘Me’ Time
“Alone time is when I distance myself from the voices of the world,
so I can hear my own”.
In today’s busy world where demands are put on us day in, day out and our lives are spent responding to or helping others, it is essential that at some point we stop and take some time out for ourselves. As a mother, photographer and blogger, my life is a juggle. It’s a very happy juggle but one that squeezes every minute out of my day it seems and sometimes it feels almost impossible to switch off from my responsibilities and simply relax. Relaxing when you are a busy person can feel almost uncomfortable to begin with because when you have so much you could be doing it’s easy to feel guilty for this enforced indulgence. However, I have learned that recharging your batteries and simply taking time out (even if for only an hour a day) is essential for your mental well-being and again as a way of calming your mind and slowing down.
Whether it be curling up on the sofa with a cuppa and a magazine, a candlelit bath or catching up on your favourite TV programme, spending time by yourself can feel incredibly satisfying and promotes a sense of calm before you reconnect with the world around you again. My idea of ‘me’ time does not involve scanning my Instagram feed or checking out what’s happening on Facebook. Rather it’s a complete disconnect with the outside world, a quiet place that allows me to just ‘be’ and mentally unwind. It may only work out to be ten snatched minutes in a day but without it I think my feeling of well-being might tip off balance. When I’m in my quiet space, time again seems to slow down. I choose to have this time to calm any anxiety or tension I may be facing, to focus on my breathing or to just be alone with my thoughts. It is during this time, I often have my best ideas and find renewed enthusiasm in my thoughts. Other times, it’s to reflect and process my emotions, to be present with them, acknowledge them as thinking and then allow them to let go.
Finally, By having ‘positive’ time to yourself, you will increase your happiness levels which will in turn have a positive impact on the people around you. Think of it as your opportunity to have a mental detox!
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”.
– Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
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