For many people, there is joy that the current year is coming to an end, but for the positive thinkers, it might be a time to slow down and think of all the good that has transpired in 2016. There still remains a great deal of political and social unrest among us, so the importance of community has become more meaningful. As such, it’s the perfect time to take a peek into our own personal lives so we can remember to appreciate all the goodness around us.
This year I became a grandmother to two beautiful grandchildren, Jaxson and Lila — a magical experience that feels unparalleled. Since I’m in my early sixties, I had become a bit inpatient for my kids to have children of their own, and sometimes felt that time was slipping away before my eyes.
It is a well-known phenomenon that as we get older, time seems to move more quickly, and nobody feels this more intensely than those my age, especially at year’s end. And, it’s almost a common complaint across the generations that time “flies.” There are various theories as to why this happens, but what seems to make the most sense is that when we’re young, we encounter a lot of “firsts,” such as our first day of school, our first sleepover, our first kiss, getting our first car, or our first sexual encounter. For the most part, when thinking about the firsts in our lives, we tend to recall the details of these events more clearly, and the more detailed our recollections, the better we remember them. I so clearly remember not only the birth of my grandchildren, but also their first full day of life, and their shock at being in a world where they had no idea of how to be or what to do. The only thing that might have been familiar to them were the sounds of their parents’ voices.
During these special moments, and also when we’re on vacation, the first few days seem to go very quickly. Then, all of a sudden, it seems as if time whips by. Now my grandchildren are already six months and six weeks old. How did that happen so quickly? Before I know it, they’ll be crawling, walking, talking, going to school, talking back to their parents, going to college, getting married, and becoming parents themselves.
Psychologist William James wrote about time perception in his book Psychology: The Briefer Course. He believed that time passes more quickly for older people because as we age, there aren’t as many memorable events. Some people may disagree with this sentiment, but one thing’s for sure: there are fewer firsts and many more repetitive events experienced in adulthood. James says that objects and images fade slowly from our memory and are replaced by what is happening in the present and what might happen in the future. He dares the reader to not arrest, but to notice the present moment in time. He suggests that the present melts from our grasp and, in fact, tends to be gone as soon as it has become.
Perhaps this is why, more recently, many of us have implemented the Buddhist practice of mindfulness into our everyday lives, with the goal of being full present. Being present and appreciating the good times is not only a way to lock them into memory, but also a way to instill deeper joy into our hearts.
Acknowledging that time seems to be moving quickly is a reminder that there are also things we can do to slow it down. Remaining positive and present is an excellent way to start. Maintaining a mindful attitude is another way to slow down time. More specifically, being mindful means paying attention to the details of our lives and incorporating all our senses into the remembering process — that is, stopping to smell those roses, savoring each bite of a fine meal, and really listening to the songs of birds or the sounds of waves on the shore. Each experience may last only a moment . . . but moments are what our memories are made of.
Another way to be mindful about the occurrences in our lives is to document them in pictures or video, or write them down. Year’s end is as good time a time as any to do so, as many people are reviewing and remembering the events of the previous months. You can note these experiences in your journal or, if you’re more comfortable, on your computer.
Here are some ideas you can write about:
- The highlights of your year.
- Any births or deaths in your family or your circle of friends.
- Your accomplishments, big and small.
- One new person you met and why it was a valuable connection.
- An adventure or new experience that changed you in some way.
- A new passion you developed.
- Any positive transitions you made.
Originally published at www.psychologytoday.com.