In his book, The Brain, neuroscientist David Eagleman recounts some experiments during which participants were dropped into a net from great heights. The experience of taking a 150ft drop at a rate of about 70mph was terrifying enough to replicate the brain’s responses to life threatening situations. The researchers wanted to see what happens to our perception of time in these circumstances.
Each volunteer estimated their own time in the air to have lasted about a third longer than those of the volunteers they watched fall. What the researchers found was that this warped perception of time was not created by a heightening of the senses, but by the creation of an additional set of memories. These richer, denser memories made the experience feel longer than it was.
This same memory illusion is what happens to use as we grow older, and feel that time is speeding up. As children, our experiences are new and so we create rich, detailed memories of them. We stare at slugs, and gape open-mouthed at moths and butterflies. We close our eyes in delight as we bite into our favorite meals, and throw ourselves into hugs with gusto. As we grow older, these experience become familiar and so we lay down fewer memories, resulting in the illusion of time speeding up. When a child looks back over a year, it seems to have lasted forever, whereas for an adult it might have zoomed by.
Knowing this, how can we use it to our Creative Genius advantage? How can we stop the years from zipping by? By living fully in each moment, a practice know to many as Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is often conflated with meditation, but it’s not necessary to meditate in order to be mindful.
Try this little exercise:
Set your alarm to ring every hour on the hour. When it rings, stop whatever you are doing for a moment to fully take in the things around you. Make a quick mental list of what you can see, hear and smell. How do you feel? Are you tired? Are your toes cold? Do a complete check-in with your body and your surroundings.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, begin to incorporate this exercise into your daily life. Take advantage of the natural breaks in your day to really notice what’s around you. Do it while you’re waiting for your e-mail to come in, or the kettle to boil. Do it while you’re standing in line at the store, or on the way to your car. Take every opportunity to immerse yourself fully in the moment.
You’ll be surprised how much you can slow time down with this simple exercise, and as an added bonus, you might enjoy your day more. You might notice how pretty the sun looks poking through the clouds, or how incredibly bright the Autumn leaves are, how secure you’re feeling in the arms of a loved one, or how adorable the dog looks when he’s dreaming. All the beautiful, often un-noticed, moments happening around you will knit themselves into a rich tapestry of your day.
Life speeds along regardless of what you’re doing, but you can control the pace at which you perceive it.
Take time to be in your day. Take time to be Creative Genius YOU.