How to make your day last longer
Can you remember a period in your life when, if you look back on it now, time seemed to stretch on forever? When a week seemed like four, or an hour seemed like it went on for days? What were you doing during that period?
Chances are, you were probably doing something (or a whole bunch of something) that was brand new to you and demanded your attention. The funny thing is, when you focus on what you are doing you actually slowed down time or at least how your brain perceived that time. Neuroscientist David Eagleman explains that this is how your brain perceives time.
“Brain time,” as Eagleman calls it, is intrinsically subjective. “Try this exercise,” he suggests ,“Put this book down and go look in a mirror. Now move your eyes back and forth, so that you’re looking at your left eye, then at your right eye, then at your left eye again. When your eyes shift from one position to the other, they take time to move and land on the other location. But here’s the kicker: you never see your eyes move.” There’s no evidence of any gaps in your perception—no darkened stretches like bits of blank film—yet much of what you see has been edited out. Your brain has taken a complicated scene of eyes darting back and forth and recuts it as a simple one: your eyes stare straight ahead. Where did the missing moments go?
Before we explain these time-bending powers you didn’t know you had, let’s back up a bit and look at how our brains perceive time normally.
Our ‘sense’ of time not like any of our physical senses i.e. taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing With time, we don’t so much sense it as perceive it. Our brains take a whole bunch of information from our senses and organize it in a way that makes sense to us, before we ever perceive it. So what we think is our sense of time is actually just a whole bunch of information presented to us in a particular way, we can reorganize that data to reframe how our sense of time is perceives and how it effects out work habits, and sense of wellbeing, particularly with work life balance.
When our brains receive new information, it doesn’t necessarily come in the proper order. This information needs to be reorganized and presented to us in a form we understand. When familiar information is processed, this doesn’t take much time at all. New information, however, is a bit slower and makes time feel elongated.
Even stranger, it isn’t just a single area of the brain that controls our time perception—it’s done by multiple areas of the brain unlike our common five senses, which can each be pinpointed to a single, specific area.
For young children, it’s easy to see how this would work in reverse, since the majority of information their brains are processing would be brand new, and require more time to process.
According to the research, if we feed our brains more new information, the extra processing time required will make us feel like time is moving more slowly. Here are five ways you could put this into practice immediately. If you have more ideas, I’d love to hear them!
1. Keep learning
Learning new things is a pretty obvious way to pass your brain new information on a regular basis. If you’re constantly reading, trying new activities or taking courses to learn new skills, you’ll have a wealth of ‘newness’ at your fingertips to help you slow down time.
2. Visit new places
A new environment can send a mass of information rushing to your brain—smells, sounds, people, colors, textures. Your brain has to interpret all of this. Exposing your brain to new environments regularly will give it plenty of work to do, letting you enjoy longer-seeming days.
3. Meet new people
We all know how much energy we put into interactions with other people. Unlike objects, people are complex and take more effort to ‘process’ and understand. Meeting new people, then, is a good workout for our brains. That kind of interaction offers us lots of new information to make sense of, like names, voices, accents, facial features and body language.
4. Try new activities
Doing new stuff means you have to pay attention. Your brain is on high alert and your senses are heightened, because concentrating on new sensations, information and feelings at a rapid rate. As your brain takes in and notices every little detail, that period of time seems to stretch out longer and longer in your mind.
5. Be spontaneous
Surprises are like new activities: they make us pay attention and heighten our senses. Anyone who hates surprises can attest to that.