Boxing in a ring, making grape juice with your feet and jumping into a cold pool of water in the middle of winter. These were just a few activities that Matt Danzico did as part of a quirky experiment (The Time Hack) to see if he could create the longest year of his life.
Why did he do this?
Well, scientific research suggests that when people engage in new activities time seems to slow down.
Danzico wanted to know if this was actually the case. So he set himself a challenge: each day for a year he would try something new and unusual.
So what did he find?
Time in fact slowed down.
After the year long experiment, he concluded –
“For generations, mothers have told their children not sit around and let life pass them by. The Time Hack was an effort to confront the time-honoured adage and demonstrate the science-backed benefits of making the most out of life. In short: Do more and your perception of life will change for the better. Get out the house and experience the world first-hand, put yourself in unusual and uncomfortable situations.”
And before you start thinking, “But hang on a minute, there are only 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour…you can’t change time!” let me make a distinction between two types of time: physical time and psychological time.
Physical time is the actual amount of time we have in our lives (i.e. 24 hours in a day) and this will never change.
Whereas psychological time is your perception of how long something takes. Several studies show that you can extend your perception of time in a number of ways such as engaging in new experiences like Danzico did.
It’s easy to understand the psychology of how your perception of time can be slowed down by thinking back to a time when you hurt yourself or experienced excruciating pain. Perhaps you broke your leg, slammed your finger in a car door or had a splitting migraine. Did it feel like time stood still or dragged? Most likely.
When you’re in pain you perceive time to be longer than it actually is. The reason for this is that you focus in on the pain and have greater attentional focus on what’s happening in the here and now. In other words, you’re more mindful. That’s why everything seems to slow down.
The good news is that slamming your fingers in the car door isn’t the only way to expand your sense of psychological time. I’ve outlined a few other healthier and less painful ways below.
Do new things
There’s really no reason why you can’t try something new and different each day. If you look at the different activities Danzico did as part of The Time Hack experiment you’ll quickly see that the only thing stopping you is your imagination.
Ask yourself this–
“What can I do differently today?”
There is an infinite number of possibilities: make something different for dinner, take a different route to school or work, have a conversation with someone you usually wouldn’t, etc. You don’t even need much money (if any) to do most of these things. A lot of the activities Danzico engaged in (e.g. creating and tossing a message in a bottle, having dinner with an Iraqi refugee and learning to moonwalk) cost next to nothing.
Be in the moment
Do you often find yourself thinking about the future or the past? Or perhaps you find that you frequently break or spill things because you weren’t paying full attention or were thinking about something else? Do you tend to forget a persons name as soon as you’ve been told it?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider that most of the time you’re not in the present moment. You may be living life on automatic pilot, which means you experience life in a mindless, rushed and frenzied way.
If you’re sick of experiencing life like this, you may want to take up mindfulness training. Mindfulness is defined as being aware of what is going on around you (internally and externally) in the present moment in a non judgmental way.
As the authors of the journal article “If money doesn’t make you happy, consider time” state –
“One possible benefit of being present-focused is that thinking about the present moment vs the future slows down the passage of time, allowing people to feel less rushed and hurried”
It’s firmly established that breathing deeply can help us to de-stress, but recently it’s also been shown that it can help us to expand our time.
In an experiment by Rudd and Aaker, one group of participants were told to take long and slow breaths, whilst another group took short and quick breaths for 5 minutes. The participants who breathed more deeply felt that they had more time to get things done and felt that their days were longer too.
So next time you find yourself feeling stressed out and rushed, remember that you have a choice in the matter. You can extend your perception of time through using a range of simple strategies: trying new experiences, breathing deeply and by being in the here and now.