You’ve probably noticed that time is relative. Some days seem to drag on forever, while others speed by. But in reality, every day is always the same 24 hours.
Our memories capture the passage of time in a similarly inaccurate fashion. When we think back on a random mid-winter work week, our pool of memories is probably limited. We drove to work, did our job, drove home, ate dinner, watched Netflix, went to bed…day after day. Days like that are, for the most part, unmemorable. So, our perception of the time that passed shrinks.
We can’t recall the details of each commute – each traffic jam and every minute we spent waiting for the light to change. We don’t remember each hour we sat staring at a computer screen. So, our minds recall just one commute, one workday. This, in effect, shrinks our time.
Think back on a foreign vacation, on the other hand, and the pool of memories is much greater. In just one day, we may encounter a foreign language, new people, interesting foods, and a different natural environment. Days spent like this create a large pool of memories that is impossible to forget. Our perception of time expands.
Life during those times seems richer and more varied. Our days seem vibrant and full. The excitement of novelty stretches the time in our memories.
So how do we expand our time on a daily basis? Simply, do something new.
I often think about this concept when I’m deciding whether or not to embark on a small adventure. Yes, it would be easier to stay home and get some more work done. I could keep my house sparkling clean and make sure things are orderly. But will I remember another afternoon spent like that? Will I really remember how clean my kitchen floor was or even a full week of laundry sorted in a timely fashion?
The more novelty and adventure I add into my daily life, the richer my memory of that time seems. I can look back on my week and think of a new spring I discovered, a new friend I met on the trail, or a new cave I explored. I remember that hike I took with a friend for her birthday (when I just didn’t have the time). And I remember the last-minute mountain bike ride I took with another friend (ditto on the time).
The bills will get paid and the work will get done. But there’s more to life than routine. Change up your regularly scheduled program. Adding small novelties will stretch your weeks, months, and years into something worth remembering.