Teach Your Brain to Stretch Time

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February 14, 2008 | 68,540 views

Time is only as fast or as slow as your brain perceives it to be, and now researchers are finding that it may be possible to gain some control over the pace of life.

Learning how to slow down time, or getting into “the zone,” as it’s called, is not commonplace. But it is, at least theoretically, possible.

Your brain keeps track of seconds and minutes passing using a system called “interval timing.” New research has identified that certain parts of your brain are responsible for this timekeeping, including estimating how much time has passed. But these estimates are far from concrete.

For instance, it’s well-known that time goes by faster when you’re having fun, and seems slower when you’re bored. Certain drugs, such as caffeine and Valium, can also speed up or slow down time, respectively. Health conditions, too, including schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease, also interfere with your brain’s perception of time.

While drug companies believe they could make a drug that would alter your perception of time, researchers have revealed another method: your mind.

It appears that taking your focus off of time will make it seem to slow down. The Dalai Lama used the example of meditation, during which time slows down as you turn your focus away from your internal clock.

Though the research on how to get into “the zone” is just beginning, the early work shows that the attention you pay, or don’t pay, to the passage of time significantly impacts your perception of it. Outside of your health, your time is one of your most valuable possessions. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to slow down your day and give yourself more time to enjoy a walk on the beach, a talk with your spouse, or an embrace with your children?

Well, to some extent you can.

Though I’m fond of sharing time-saving tips that can help you to get more accomplished during your day, here I’m referring to your perception of time. I have also been a major fan of Getting Things Done, which is one of the best productivity tools that I know of.

High productivity is great because if you are more productive you can then designate more free time for yourself.

Yet, have you ever noticed that when you feel short on time your mind often gets foggy and your heart may start to race? In short, you may begin to feel panicked, which causes you to rush even more.

And when you rush, you simply will not be functioning at your best. And you certainly won’t be experiencing much joy.

Of course, the more that you’re in a hurry, the more you are focused on, and obsessed with, time. And this also works against you, as you become very aware of the time ticking away.

This is, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence for me as my days are typically full of things to do, and as a result I must manage my time well. But I find that whatever you put your focus on, you tend to manifest in your life. So seek to focus on what you are doing in the moment, rather than how much time has passed, and I suspect you’ll find that you will have more than enough time for the things that are most important to you.

Living life in the fast lane certainly has its appeal at times, but taking time to savor each moment is what life is really all about.

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