Ok, so the title of this post is a tiny bit misleading…
It should really be called “How to feel as though you’re living a longer life.’ Because I’m going to let you into a trick that I use. And no, I’m not going to tell you that to live a longer life you have to eat well, exercise and stop smoking. Although all those things are true. So, do those too.
The trick to feeling as though you’re living a longer life is simple: Do Different Things.
Time seems to speed up as you get older. And I’m sure there are many many scientific reasons for this, but the one that really resonates with me is this: you do fewer things for the first time.
When you’re a child, so many things each day are firsts. The first time you eat a particular food, visit somewhere, try to do something. Each time you have a ‘first’ you make a memory. But those first times don’t last. So the memories of the next time you do the same things are less strong.
Here’s a really simple example. Since 18th January of this year, I’ve eaten the same breakfast every day. Porridge. Made with half water, half milk, weighed out to the same amount every day. I know this, because I’m recording it in MyFitnessPal. But can I remember each one? No… Every breakfast, nutritional though it may be, has just merged into one in my memories. And not because it’s not thrilling, but because it’s always the same. It would be the same if I took the same journey to work every day, along the same route, on the same bus. If I chose to get to work by a completely different route, one that I’d never tried before, I’d have a better memory of it.
Of course, routines are important. They’re really important for my kids, for example – they like the stability. And they help us create good habits – my porridge is helping me to lose weight and get fitter. So it’s doing a good job. But the problem with routines, with having nothing new in our everyday lives, is that one day can pretty much seamlessly blend into another and you don’t create those memories.
And memories are what make you feel as though you’re living a long life.
It’s all too easy to slip into routine, into habit, and forget to say yes to new things in our lives. Sometimes we have to give ourselves a little push…
Five years ago, when I turned 35, I set myself a challenge to do 35 new things in my 35th year. That year has resulted in a huge collection of memories. From climbing the Yorkshire Three Peaks to making my first soufflé, I had a whole year of firsts. I did an adult ballet class (oh my god…) tried drumming, kayaking, got interviewed live on Radio 4 (Women’s Hour, no less) was a World Book Night giver, did Cycletta women’s cycle challenge (first time I’d been on a bike since childhood!) and so many more things. There are blog posts hidden all over my archives about this year. It was such a good experience, and one that made my bravery grow a huge amount. One of my new things was joining Twitter; one simple act that led to a whole host of new opportunities and friendships. It was, undoubtedly, one of the biggest years for memories of my whole life.
I think that it’s also the reason that I’m more comfortable with trying new things. Since that year, I’ve taken more risks, tried more new things, accepted more challenges. Had lots more ‘firsts’. Made lots more memories.
And now, five years later, I’m considering new challenges to celebrate my fortieth year. To make more new memories. I’m not sure how this challenge should unfold, but it’s been sitting in my brain for a few weeks now so I think I’m going to try.
Any ideas what I should do?
I run #mbeverydayadventurer on Instagram to celebrate everyday adventures. Celebrating small adventures is a great way of making memories.
Also, see my 40 x 40 list with a twist here…