If you’re over 40, do you find that, as you age, time seems to go faster?
That has certainly been my experience and those of my 50-something friends. While I have always attributed this to an active, engaging and joy-filled life — the “time-flies-when-you’re-having-fun” idea — it turns out there’s research that authenticates this common perception.
Dubbed the “oddball effect,” in their fascinating new book The Power of Moments, authors Chip and Dan Heath cite research from neuroscientist David Eagleman which showed that surprising, disruptive and novel experiences tended to expand their subjects’ perception of elapsed time.
In a chapter in their book titled “Break the Script”, the Heath Brothers share similar findings and offer the explanation that, as we get older, our lives become more routine and less novel. To reinforce this claim, they cite research showing that, when older people are asked about their most vivid memories, they tend to disproportionately recall events from their youth, roughly from ages 15-30 years old. (Psychologists call this the “reminiscence bump”). The reason these earlier memories are more vivid comes down to novelty: Youth is a time of firsts — first romantic relationships, first car, first job, first taste of freedom, etc. For most people, once they reach a certain season of life, such as the kids leaving home or retirement, they settle into a lifestyle of predictable, comfortable routines and fewer new experiences.
The Heath Brothers offer a simple antidote: Break your pattern by injecting fresh experiences that disrupt repetition. But they make one important caveat: “Breaking the script” in your life doesn’t mean, say, divorcing your spouse, moving to Costa Rica, and becoming a tattoo artist. Here’s how they put it:
“For those anxious about facing a future that’s less memorable than the past, our advice is to honor the old saw, ‘Variety is the spice of life.’ But notice that it does not say, ‘Variety is the entree of life.’ Nobody dines on pepper and oregano. A little novelty can go a long way.”
While routines are indispensable to living a healthy and functional life, we don’t have to wait for special occasions to create memorable moments — we can create them now.
If you examine your everyday life, I’ll bet there are small changes you could make to break up the monotony of your routines. In a recent SUCCESS Magazine article, author Jamie Friedlander shares how she and her husband have followed the Heath Brothers’ advice:
“Instead of going to Kenny’s Italian and out for a movie every Friday night, we now try new places. Last week we went to a new Pho restaurant, and the week before that we tried a new Thai spot and then went out after for Arabic ice cream, something neither of us had ever had. Instead of walking in the same forest preserve in Plano, Texas every Sunday morning, we’ve found a new spot to explore nearly every weekend for the last few months. Breaking the routine is so simple, but it had never crossed my mind. Part of what we seek in life is stability… but even the small break in routine of eating at a new restaurant on Friday night has made our lives more enjoyable and adventurous… and I feel closer to my husband.”
If you live in northern Michigan, (or virtually anywhere in the northern hemisphere) chances are you’ve been looking forward to summer for many months. Now that it’s in full swing, (can you believe the Cherry Festival has started?) how often do you think to yourself, “It’s going by too quickly… I need to savor every summer moment!” Take a cue from The Power of Moments and look for simple ways to break up the daily grind by bringing variety and a playful attitude to your everyday life. While I can’t guarantee you won’t rue the arrival of Labor Day any less, it may stretch your enjoyment of this special season just a little.
What are some ways you can break your normal routine this summer?