Why is it that time seems to go faster as we get older? When we were children, the summer holidays seemed to last forever, and the wait between Christmases felt like an eternity.
So why is it that when we get older, the time just seems to zip by, with weeks, months and entire seasons disappearing from a blurred calendar at dizzying speed?
Research does in fact seem to show that perceived time moves more quickly as you get older making our lives feel busy and rushed.
Type into google “time getting faster” and you will see this is an actual thing.
The “Holiday Paradox”
With the last couple of days of the year behind and the whole new year ahead, I’m taking the time to reflect, adjust, make the most of the time with my son and slow the F-down.
Turns out that our brains encode new experiences (eg holidays and learning new things), but not familiar ones (eg work and routine that is normal as adults), into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period. In other words, the more new memories we build on a weekend getaway, the longer that trip will seem in hindsight.
If you want to slow down time, you literally need to tap into the phenomenon, known as “the holiday paradox”. In retrospect, time seems to pass more quickly the older we get. From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills. As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments. As a result, our early years tend to be relatively overrepresented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer. Of course, this means we can also slow time down later in life. We can alter our perceptions by keeping our brain active, continually learning skills and ideas, and exploring new places.
What is slow living?
We are overwhelmed by a relentless amount of information every day. We have blooming credit card debt. We have homes so large we can’t keep them maintained. We eat on the go grabbing whatever is close to hand or inhaling a cold coffee in the car. We have weekends booked out for months in advance. We have forgotten what it is to have less. Less stuff. Less stress. Less expectation. Less to do. Less to be. Less to prove. We are hyper-connected and utterly disconnected at the same time. We engage with strangers on social media, but we don’t say hello to our neighbours.
No wonder it feels like time is escaping us!
When I used to work in PR it was always a bit of a joke when you would ask people how they are and the response is always “Oh I’m so busy!” as if that was some badge of honour to wear. It’s probably why the burn out rate in that kind of industry is so high. But then if you have a conversation with anyone face to face, and ask about creating a slower life of less, the response is almost always the same: their shoulders slump as they sigh, “Oh, that’s what I need.”
Usually that’s followed up with the question: “But how?”
Over the past two years on The Slow Home Podcast, Brooke McAlary has interviewed more than 100 people who all have different views on what it means to live a slower life. From tree changes to urban living, tiny homes to ethical consumption, self-sustainability to slow food – there is no one way of describing the external indicators of slow living because there is no one way to live a slower, simpler life.
Author and slow living advocate Erin Loechner said that to her, slow living is a duality of caring more and caring less – that is, working out what’s worth caring more about, and letting go of the things that aren’t. Since embracing a slower, more mindful life, she cares more about being available for her friends and far less about dust bunnies. In other words, slow living doesn’t necessarily look like a certain type of house or a particular combination of colour-coordinated outfits, and it doesn’t need to involve baking bread or growing vegetables either.
Unfortunately if you spend any time perusing #slowliving on instagram, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. It’s easy to believe it’s a lifestyle based almost solely on wearing washed-out neutral tones while walking through the woods, of timber floors and white walls and fashionably worn stovetops surrounded by beautifully aged chopping boards, artful lattes and crumpled bed sheets on rainy days.
Instead, slow living is a curious mix of being prepared and being prepared to let go. Caring more and caring less. Saying yes and saying no. Being present and walking away. Doing the important things and forgetting those that aren’t. Grounded and free. Heavy and light. Organised and flexible. Complex and simple.
It’s about living in accordance with the important things in life. And more specifically, living in accordance with the important things in your life.
It’s about cultivating self-awareness, letting go of the excess stuff in our homes, learning how to live mindfully, getting in touch with our personal values, and choosing which advice applies to our circumstances, happily releasing the ideas that don’t fit our homes, families, jobs or values.
What this means for my family
Slow living is about paying attention to life. The living part, specifically and spending time noticing it. The cuddles and the tear stains and the sunrises and the uncertainties. The love and the anger and the joy and the envy. This is particularly relevant when you have kids.
I’m not saying that we are about the pack up and move to the country (although it does feel appealing after reading Suzanne Acteson’s story about relocating the France here). I still love my job, this business and my son will still be dropped at daycare 3 days a week. But on the days we have together, there will be lots more play time together and less looking at my phone. And on the mornings before we go to daycare, there will be lots more cuddles and lots less rushing out the front door and hustling to get in the car.
And oh yes there will be holidays….
This is not a quick fix and there isn’t a finish line. This isn’t a race with a start and an end. This is slow, imperfect, intentional and evolving.
When staying in is just as good as going out: New Year’s Eve
So you are still reading and you like the idea of earning back your time and slowing down. Good on you!
Now how can you start immediately?
In the old days pre-baby (PB) New Years Eve meant parties, bubbles glam squad makeup and sparkly dresses. But with bath times to adhere to and bed time routines to stick to it’s decidedly less glitsy.
Not that that is a bad thing. In fact, I kind of love it. Staying at home, putting the baby to bed, cooking an amazing dinner with my husband, opening a great bottle of red wine and watching a movie on our list is probably one of my favourite things to do on NYE now. I’d take that over high heels and blow drys any day.
And in keeping with my new mantra of slow living I will be absolutely relishing in every mouthful of steak and glup of red wine. I might even stretch out story time a bit longer.
The Out & About Baby guide to staying in and watching a movie on NYE.
As much as I love going out with my family (duh that’s kind of what this whole website is about) in the name of slowing down, I’ve done some research for you on the best movies to watch on New Years Eve after the kids are in bed.
An Affair to Remember (1957)
You can thank Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant for shaping your (possibly unrealistic) expectations of the perfect New Year’s Eve kiss. For an epic romantic movie marathon, follow with Sleepless in Seattle.
Ocean’s Eleven (1960)
No I don’t mean the one with Brad Pitt and George Clooney (although I do quite like that one too). I mean the original heist with Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford which takes place on New Year’s Eve.
The Godfather Part II (1974)
If mafia movies are more your speed, here’s an offer you won’t be able to refuse. Instead of a loving peck at midnight, Al Pacino’s character gives his brother who betrayed him the “kiss of death”.
Trading Places (1983)
Start the new year off laughing with this comedy featuring the hilarious trio of Dan Ackroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Try not to cry as two unlikely friends (played by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan) fall in love and finally come together on New Year’s Eve.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
The charming British Rom-Com begins and ends on New Year’s Eve each time with a blank diary and finally ending with a show stopping kiss.
Someone like You (2001)
Ashley Judd has a steamy romance with her producer, but when the relationship suddenly goes south, she moves in with her hot, womanising friend, played by Hugh Jackman. As the tension between the pair builds (with plenty of cute rom-com moments thrown in for good measure) it leads up to a will-they-or-won’t-they moment as the ball drops on NYE.