How Children Can Teach Us to Slow our Perception of Time

Making Memories with Our Children

Another year has “flown” by. Our children can teach us many valuable lessons that can help slow our perception of time.

Another year gone by.

Just this week I sat down with a fresh planner in eager anticipation of the new year ahead. As I started to scribble down appointments to make and important dates to remember, I thought to myself “didn’t I just do this?” 

The beginning of each year is full of promise. Full of hope and inspiration. Many of us make resolutions for ourselves: To start exercising; To drink more water; To be more organized; To be more present. Yet, a few months into the new year, it’s all too easy to forget these goals and quickly sink back into the quicksand of a busy life.

Then, before we know it, the year flies by and annual events start to blur together, like smudged messages in your planner, under your dripping coffee mug (neglected due to the aforementioned “quicksand.”). Sigh.

To make things more interesting, it seems that the older we get, the more time speeds up. Can anyone else relate?

Researchers have found that adults, especially those feeling “time pressure,” or a never-ending to-do list, are more likely to associate the passage of time with that of a speeding train rather than a slow stroll in the park (as do their younger counterparts, including our children!).

The good news is, I believe that our children can teach us many valuable lessons that may just help slow our perception of time. Here are three ways how:

1) Make New Memories

Children have many firsts to look forward to: First piece of chocolate; First baseball game; First dance; First kiss. First party. They make myriad new memories in a short period of time. Psychologist, William James, writes about this in Principles of Psychology, stating that, as adults, we make fewer new memories thus “the days and weeks smooth themselves out… and the years grow hollow and collapse.” Pretty grim, huh?

Knowing this gives us the opportunity to make more memories ourselves. Just inviting the same old experiences into our lives may not always be the perfect formula for making memories. To me, memories are the exciting stories that we will share with our children and grandchildren one day. They are learning something new, getting lost on purpose in a foreign city or ordering the calamari special instead of your usual baked chicken at dinner. Focus on creating memories in the moment and include your little ones when you can… after all, memories are pretty sweet when shared!

Don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit this year and delight in the novelty of it all! Which brings us to #2.

2) Open Up to New Experiences

Ask my son to go somewhere or try something new and he is usually up for the adventure. He is quicker to say “yes” than he is to say “no” on most days (except for getting dressed, but one may argue that is a new liberating experience in itself).

A few months ago, I tried a little experiment in saying only “yes.” I quickly learned that this may not the best solution for being more open (for example, I really did not want room for cream in my coffee everyday when the barista asked) but I did learn something. The more I let go of reasons why NOT to do something, the more I LIVED my life.

There may always a reason not to do something, sure. But how often do we first acknowledge the many blessings that may arise from an unplanned experience, hearing a unique point of view or trying something new? Opening ourselves up to saying “yes” more often clears our path for making new memories and minimizes the risk of falling victim to the hustle and bustle of a mundane routine.

3) Strive for Stress Free

Do you ever hear children making small talk at the playground about how stressed out they are? No (at least I certainly hope not). Children may feel stressors for one reason or another, but they are unlikely to create stress themselves.

Adults, on other hand, pile up stress like building blocks, hoping that they don’t all fall over. Remember how I mentioned that a feeling of “time pressure” leads to a sense that the years are flying by?

Although we might certainly agree many situations are stressful, we create all of our own stress and often do little to manage it other than talk about how we want to.

There are many, many ways to practice inviting less stress into your life and we’ve put together some wonderful suggestions for you.

Cheers to another beautiful — and slow — year full of new memories!

Photo Credit: Heather Williams/Flickr

2 thoughts on “How Children Can Teach Us to Slow our Perception of Time”

  1. Wonderful, as always!
    I especially appreciated the great insight in the line, “we create all of our own stress.”
    If more people understood that what we call stress is a response to pressure, and it is all self imposed, maybe they would lighten up a bit.
    That realization changed my life.

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