• Lifestyle, Advice

Why is your life a blur? The brain needs simplicity & awe

Photo by Ravenperch.

“For freelancers, freedom in work, health in life, and community in both are the ticking hands on the new gold watch.”
- Sara Horowitz, Founder of Freelancers Union

Why have the last five years of your life gone by so quickly -- with just a few memories -- when you can remember the four years of high school in such glittering detail?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone; researchers have found that aside from biological reasons such as changes in heart rate, metabolism, dopamine levels, etc., our minds have evolved to conserve mental energy and only focus on new information, so as our lives become increasingly habitual (commute, work, home, TV, repeat), our brain tunes out.

“Our mindless efficiency comes with an experiential cost,” social psychologist Ron Friedman wrote in Fast Company. “The less attention we pay each passing moment, the more quickly time fades.”

So why should we care? Because studies show that people who feel “time-rich” are happier and have a greater sense of well-being than those of us who hurry through life. They’re also healthier, have fewer headaches, and experience fewer stress-related illnesses. This is independent of income; the positive impacts of time-wealthiness occur no matter how much you make.

There’s good news though: it’s possible to slow down time again.

Friedman points to four main ways to reverse hastiness: seeking out beauty and awe (like visiting an art museum), making fewer decisions (don’t overanalyze your choices), not monitoring your email (I think you’ve heard of this one), and breaking up your daily routines by always doing new things.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to seek out beauty, lead a simpler life, and break up our daily routines in more-than-full-time jobs where we feel pressured by our bosses to check email on the weekends and never go on vacation.

Could this be why 2 in 5 Americans have voluntarily chosen to work less (and make less) in the last 5 years -- with nearly 90% happy that they made that choice? And why so many are choosing personal freedom and the time to enjoy personal projects and family by freelancing?

Our brains need simplicity and awe. Because our lives are worth not forgetting.

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