Does falling into the Grand Canyon count as a near death experience? Cause I almost did it. I took a wrong trail and, shouldering a heavy backpack, ended up free-climbing a cliff. When I got to the top, my pack caught a low lying branch of a pine tree and the counter force pushed me backwards. I slid on red rocks, slid, slid, slid to the edge of a 5280 foot drop! Scrambling to not die, I reached out and caught another branch just before plummeting to rocks a mile below. Yikes! It happened in slow motion, I remember it so well. Even now, years later, I close my eyes and can see every second.
Just like I did, many people perceive time more slowly when their life is threatened. Have you ever had a sudden brush with death? Did you feel it? That slow-motion feeling happens at other times too, like when we are in new-love, or when we are kids. Do you remember the endless summers and waiting forever for Christmas break? Why did Christmas take so long to get here and why doesn’t it now? The older we get, the more quickly time flies. Blink! It’s gone.
What if we could slow our life down and stretch it out? What if time still felt as slow as it did when we were kids? Would we live longer, or would life seem longer to us?
This, my friends, is your lucky day. I know how to slow time and I’m about to tell you how.
Unbelievable? Hang with me here. I know about it because I’m a science geek and am familiar with research of neuroscientist David Eagleman and other neuroscientist like him. Here’s the trick:
When our brain processes our hum drum daily routine – getting up at six, having coffee, driving to work on I-25 every single day, punching the clock, getting our work done, fighting traffic to get home, fixing dinner, going to bed – our brain files these happenings away quickly because it’s been there and done that. We don’t think about it much, it’s a habit, our active brain sleeps. But, when we experience something NEW, all the wires and circuits in our head wake up and say, “Wait a minute. We haven’t seen this before.” They begin paying attention to the details of what is happening to us, taking in new data, filing pieces here and there, “Oh, I remember something like this, this works like this, maybe it’s like that.” It takes longer for our brain to sort, file, and learn and when it does that work, time slows way down for us. It feels like time stretches out as we access and remember each moment. Then, when we get back to life as usual, our time line speeds up again. It’s all about perception.
Isn’t that cool?
When we experience new things, time slows down. Life seems longer.
That’s also why time seems to speed up as we age. There are less new things to learn as we gain experience.
I’ve always been a sucker for time-travel movies and the zaniness of quantum physics. But this doesn’t take a time machine, we can do this on our own. We can slow our perceived time by intentionally introducing ourselves to new things.
Today, experimenting with newness, I woke up at 5:30 instead of 6. I ran in the morning instead of the afternoon, then skipped coffee and brewed tea. I took a new route to work listening to country music, same as never. Later I had lunch with a new friend Emily, and after work went to the park, slid down the huge, shiny new adult slide and climbed on the adult spider web. That as so much fun! For dinner I tried spinach quesadillas (yum) and the topic of conversation was something I had never thought about before.
My brain was full. I lived every moment.
Traveling is great for this. Newness rushes in, envelops all the senses and every second is well lived. Life seems long!
Last Christmas the only thing on my list was, “A new experience.” My son Jackson grumped, “A NEW experience? You’re not making this easy on us are you?” But all four kids came through. I went Geo-cashing for the first time, wilderness camping in a new place with a great meal and I did not have to carry a thing! (Amazing!) My daughter gave me another camping trip including eating at a cafe in a cave, and Jackson gave me a night of tagging the town complete with paint and stencils and everything, like Banksy. We haven’t done that yet. I hope “everything” includes bail money.