The sense of time is elastic. What seems like an eternity to a four year old (one year) can seem to flash by to an eighty year old. Scientists have studied this and have a few ideas of why this is.
When you only have a decade or so left to live, the phenomenon of time whizzing by can be disconcerting. You might be glad because you want the end to come sooner rather than later, but if you still enjoy life you might want a method for slowing down time.
There is one. The reason four year olds have slow time is because everything is new to them. Just like when you drive to a new location the first time, it seems to be a long trip, but by the fiftieth time you can daydream, go on automatic pilot and get to your destination in no time.
So you can slow down time by doing new activities that take concentration and effort. This may seem at odds with the inclination to rest more and look for easy routines that match waning energy and avoid too much pain. But the more routine your day is, the faster time will go.
How to balance this and make what time we have left on earth last as long as possible, while making sure we take medicine on time and still have the comfort of some regular activities that don’t need much effort, like reading the morning paper at your favorite coffee house?
I believe we can structure a good compromise between safe regular activities and stretching our minds and bodies with new activities. I also think you can schedule just the right amount of newness into a day and a week so that we don’t get overwhelmed with challenge, but also don’t get bored and depressed.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied happiness and creativity and defined the word “flow” as a perfect balance between challenge and frustration. We can find our level of participation in any activity to get to this creative, happy, comfort level.
Whether it means participation in a yoga class or learning to paint, getting the right challenge is key. And for the elderly, timing is