Patterns

I remember reading some time back, I don’t remember where, that one of the reasons our brains tend to slip a bit as we age is because so much of our lives revolve around habits. We wake up at the same time every day; our morning routines are seemingly set in stone. Take the same route to work; and work itself is a day-in-day-out experience. We drive the identical route home- how many times have you been road hypnotized on the way home and forgotten whole stretches of the ride? Then, dinner and sit in front of a screen and watch the same shows week after week. All this habitual behavior seems to make the brain atrophy a bit. (I make no claims to scientific truth here, and I am not talking about real mental failure, just the slow dulling that seems common with age.)

Then more recently I heard a corollary to this phenomenon. It is due to these monotonous patterns that we follow as adults that time seems to go by so quickly. In our youth, everything is new so the brain takes lots of “footage” so we can remember things. The highlight film is long. When your 40+ there is little new so the brain goes on autopilot a lot- no new footage. So when we think back there is no highlight reel to watch, time just seems to have flown by.

All of this certainly does not sound ideal, so what do we do about it? Epictetus has a simple solution. “What assistance can we find in the fight against habit? Try the opposite!” Simple right? We just need to find ways of doing things a little differently each day, even something as simple as taking a different route to work will probably help.

Time for me to make a list.