I had a young elementary aged child brought to me for depression and lack of focus. He had been a vibrant and excited child who did well in school, but in the last year, had begun a steep decline. Doctors had recommended pharmaceutical drugs for his condition, but his mother did not want to go that route and brought him to see me.
It didn’t take long for me to identify the problem.
Me: Why do you think your mother brought you to see me?
Child: I feel tired and sad. I have irrational fears. (He was a very “grown-up” 9-year old who had an extensive vocabulary.)
Me: What are your fears about?
Child: That I will never get to be a kid. I have to go to school, then to baseball practice, then to piano practice and then homework. I’m so tired. At least one day a week, I just want to be able to come home and go outside to play in the backyard…like a normal kid. I don’t want to do all these things all the time.
What are we conditioning our children and ourselves to believe about experiences and time?
According to this child, these experiences are boxes to be checked off a ‘to do’ list, versus having the experiences for the sake of the experiences themselves.
When I was a child going outside to play was a given. My mom would send us out back to get us out of the house so that she could have some peace.
Great things happened when we went outside to play…our brains became creative. We made up games, invented stories, climbed the trees and discovered nature. We had arguments about the rules of the game but learned how to negotiate and work through the frustrations, so everyone played. It was fun, exciting, and most important, we were learning through play!
If you can recall those experiences, you can probably also remember how long time seemed to last. When your mom said you had a couple of hours to play, those hours seemed to last forever. That sense of timelessness was created because you were fully engaged in the moment; in other words, you essentially took the prefrontal cortex offline through the act of play.
In a recently published article in Psychological Science, researchers found that an experience of timelessness is so powerful, it deeply influences behavior.
In fact, in a series of experiments, subjects who tasted even a brief moment of timelessness, “felt they had more time available, were less impatient, more willing to volunteer to help others, more strongly preferred experiences over material products, and experienced a greater boost in life satisfaction.”
Kotler, Steven. Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work
If the experience of timelessness can influence behavior this profoundly, think of the implications it could have on our health, our productivity, and our relationships!
Perhaps, we need to put our focus on learning how to be more in the moment, to not only feel better but also, to achieve more, feel less stressed, and get along better with others.
I woke up a few weeks ago to the news of the latest mass shooting in Las Vegas. These events are horrendous and make no sense. Something that looms heavy in the back of my mind is that these events will most likely continue to occur until we learn how to better manage our minds.
We can’t manage the minds of others, but we can learn better tools and techniques for how to manage our own. There are tons of methods for learning how to quiet the mind and become more focused and centered. To name a few:
Meditation, yoga, tai chi, dance, painting, music, arts and crafts, reading, surfing, any form of play and relaxation!
Any activity that takes the pre-frontal cortex offline, so you become fully engaged in the moment is a healthy activity for your brain and body.