Everybody knows we can’t live forever. Try these 4 things for a guaranteed way to live longer
But it didn’t always.
Think back to when you were a kid.
Time often crawled, especially when you were in school keeping an eye on the clock.
Time doesn’t really speed up, of course.
One minute will always be 60 seconds.
One day will always be 24 hours, dictated by the Earth’s rotation.
And yet, as we age, we’re often haunted by how the weeks, months and years fly by.
Most of us would love to live longer.
Science says we can nudge our expiry date by building solid relationships, exercising, eating well, sleeping a lot and perhaps even meditating.
But our reality is based on our personal perceptions.
For example, we could live to ninety and, on our 89th birthday, wonder how time went so fast.
Or, we could live to sixty, and on our 59th birthday, reflect on what a long, rich life we led.
Perception is reality, to a large extent.
Consequently, we can live longer by stretching our perception.
Think of the last time you travelled somewhere new.
Perhaps you arrived on a Monday.
And by Friday, you might have looked back and asked, “Was it just five days ago that we arrived in this place?” In this case, you stretched time.
Dr. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist who specialises in the perception of time, says when we repeat the same tasks, time moves far faster than when we’re doing something new.
That’s why when most of us hit middle age, time races like a thief who just stole our phones.
We fall into predictable patterns.
We go to work.
We perform the same tasks.
We speak to the same colleagues.
We drive, walk or cycle home the same way we came.
Our after-work routines are also often the same.
Romance in the bedroom: Need I say more?
When we were children, one year was a large percentage of our lives, so one year felt longer than it does now.
But there’s something else.
As children, our lives changed.
Our bodies morphed monthly.
Our friendships with other kids were often schizophrenic.
One week, a kid punches us in the nose or spreads an ugly rumour that we wet the bed.
The next week, we might invite that kid to a birthday party.
At 15, you had a boyfriend or a girlfriend.
Two months later that was over, and you’re sweet on someone else.
Our routines changed.
We learned a lot in a short amount of time.
In David Bowie’s song, Changes, he sings, “Time may change me. But I can’t trace time.”
Fortunately, that isn’t entirely true.
Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College says, “Attention and memory play a part in our perception of time. To accurately gauge the passage of time required to accomplish a given task, you have to be able to focus and remember a sequence of information.”
When we’re young, the changes we face and the magnitude of what we learn become those “sequences of information.”
But when we fall into the same routines, time blurs together.
We have trouble “tracing” time: recalling specific events that are far too similar or routine.
Scientific American’s Jordan Gaines Lewis referenced what psychologist William James said in 1890.
Time seems to speed up because adulthood is accompanied by increasingly fewer memorable events.
With children, the passage of time is measured by many first-time events (first kiss, first day of school, first family vacation).
So time appears to pass slowly.
But because our perception of time is elastic, we can extend that perception by embracing the learning and alternative experiences we had when we were children.
Here are a few things you could do.
- Learn a new language
Few things will stretch your brain like language acquisition.
You’ll experience so many new “firsts” as you struggle with initial words and sentences.
You’ll measure the months or years you spend learning by your achieved, hard-earned milestones.
And there’s more.
Exercising your brain in this capacity helps you stay sharp, it could keep dementia at bay and perhaps, even extend your life.
I’ve been learning Spanish one-on-one with a teacher named, Jaime, in Colombia.
It costs me just $8 an hour.
You could pick your language with Italki, and scroll through dozens (maybe even hundreds) of teachers to find the right one for you.
You could also mix it up for free with the app, Duolingo.
- Visit a foreign country
Forget about hiding in a resort.
Each day will blend into the next.
Instead, make friends with the locals.
Learn everything you can about where you are.
You’ll have a richer (and perceptively longer) experience doing so.
- Learn a new sport or skill
Much like learning a foreign language, you’ll challenge yourself with new ideas, meet new people, and enjoy the kind of steep learning curve that children experience.
You may not live any longer.
But your perception of time will stretch.
- Be spontaneous
At least once a week, try something different.
Invite a near-stranger home for dinner.
Organise a neighbourhood potluck.
Go dancing, swimming, bird watching, fishing… anything you don’t normally do.
Everybody knows we can’t live forever.
But if we slow time down by enjoying our moments and adding variety, we might experience the next best thing.