Taking Care of Your Mental Health as You Get Older

How to Deal With The Passage of Time:

 

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the monotony of routine as we get older. The grind, as it were, has the unintended consequence of making time fly. At first, it’s only the weeks that zoom past us. But, as we age, weeks melt into months which dissolve into years until, finally, we are counting our lives in decades.

 

This whole time-travel effect can be pretty alarming, and, in fact, it is responsible for a sense of longing that we can’t quite define. It’s like an aching melancholy we feel over a life lived too quickly and too monotonously. We only have our memories in the end if we are lucky.

 

However, there is a way to reclaim your perception of the flow of time, and it’s backed by science! The simple fix — and surprisingly, it’s quite simple — is to have novel experiences that break the habitual, monotonic rituals of our everyday lives.

 

Our Brains Prioritize New Experiences Over Routine Experiences

Our brains begin to tune out when we go day after day performing the same tasks, in the same order, in the same places. It’s basically the exact reason why you stop noticing a smell or a sound after a few minutes of being in a new room — just on a macro time scale.

 

Our brains are hardwired to decipher new information, and when we aren’t providing it with new information, it sort of just goes through the motions. This makes the time fly by because there are not many novel experiences between today and three years ago. Therefore, our brains have nothing new to encode, and we feel the time evaporate away as a result.

We need to constantly feed our brains new information so that every day is filled with rich, novel experiences. The only problem is that our nature is fighting against us on this front.

 

Human Beings are Habitual Creatures

Our habitual nature can exacerbate the problem by keeping us locked into a monotonous, routine-ridden lifestyle. We form habits to help structure and organize our lives, but too much structure and organization cause us not to forge new and engaging experiences.

 

In general, human beings prefer security and stability over tumultuous excitement and danger. In a past age, when we lived as hunter-gatherers, this was a valuable survival trait. We mitigated risk by avoiding unnecessary dangers. Now, however, this tendency is no longer necessary for our survival, and in many ways, it keeps us locked into the habits of our comfort zones.

 

Make Novel Experiences a Habit

The workaround here is that we need to build new and engaging experiences into our habitualized routines. There are countless ways to do this ranging from extreme breaks from habit, like spur of the moment vacations (not necessarily recommended), all the way to the less-risky plan of driving an alternate route to the grocery store.

 

Jokes aside, one of the best ways to achieve novel experiences is to take up a hobby, craft, or learn about something new, like a language or history. If you challenge yourself to make new experiences part of your routine, then you are taking full advantage of our habit-forming nature to build novel experiences into your everyday life.

 

Some Examples of Ways to Have New Experiences

  • Explore different cuisine, whether eating out or cooking for yourself
  • Take alternate routes to familiar places
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Stop at that yard sale you pass by
  • Take weekend vacations/day trips
  • Attend cultural events
  • Learn local history
  • Plan a vacation to a new spot

 

We can help curtail the seemingly relentless passage of time by incorporating new experiences into our everyday lives. Though it can be hard to change our behaviors and habits, we can slowly introduce new experiences into our lives by starting small — alternate routes, changing up meals, or taking a hike.

 

They say a habit is formed after two weeks of repetition. So challenge yourself to learn something new: actually read that book you bought last year; make that trip to Vegas, take up painting.

Don’t get lost in routine. Forge new ones!

 

Photo by Tiago Muraro on Unsplash

About the Author:

Veronica Baxter is a writer at assignyourwriter.co.uk, blogger, and legal assistant operating out of the greater Philadelphia area. She writes for Boonswang Law, a group of dedicated life insurance attorneys in Texas.

 

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