“There are sanctuaries holding honey and salt. There are those who spill and spend. There are those who search and save.” – Carl Sandburg, excerpt, “Honey and Salt”
How are the moments of your precious life? Each one is beautiful, you know. And, while some are admittedly better than others, to squander away those moments is a crime we commit against ourselves.
The past year did not help us regarding the issue of time. Experts who study time have seen some disturbing patterns. Some experimental psychologists specialize in time, and among the best is Dr. Ruth Ogden.
In 2020, Neuroscience News published a survey Dr. Ogden conducted of more than 600 adults. It was her finding that more than 80 percent “felt their sense of time was distorted, with half of them feeling like time had slowed down, and the other half like it had sped up.”
When she drilled down a bit, the results were a combination of good news and troubling news: The days seemed to pass more quickly for people who were more socially satisfied, busier, and had less stress, which were primarily younger people. The days seemed to pass more slowly for those experiencing more stress and who had fewer tasks, which in this survey were mostly older people.
The theory Dr. Ogden has advanced is one that even those of us who do not have advanced degrees in psychology can well imagine: “When we are bored and socially dissatisfied, we have lots of spare cognitive (reasoning) capacity; we then use some of that capacity to increase our monitoring of time.” In other words, when we allow ourselves to get bored with life, we have plenty of time to sit, think and feel sorry for ourselves. Time passes slowly.
In fact, during the worst of the lockdown, Dr. Ogden concluded that “the negative emotions associated with isolation, boredom, sadness, and stress may have contributed to a slowing of time.”
Here’s the problem, of course, and anyone who has ever made a five-minute poached egg will readily understand this: whether you are a 60-year-old with an incredibly packed schedule or a 60-year-old who is isolated and bored, the five-minute poached egg takes…well, five minutes.
Every life is lovely and valuable, especially yours. In that regard, we are all alike. However, none of us knows how many hours we have.
We are the only beings on the planet (insofar as we know) that fundamentally understand that the moments of our lives are limited. Whether you are a movie star or Olympian, a neurosurgeon, a nurse, or a carpenter, you must appreciate that one day the sand in the hourglass will dwindle.
In the quote from Carl Sandburg’s classic poem, one of the interpretations is that he is talking about time, relationships, love – and, if you’d like, our very reason, our purpose for being on this Earth.
What will we do with those precious moments from this very second from now on? We could, as Sandburg suggests, “spill and spend.” It has never been easier to do that.
The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology recommends limiting the use of social media to 30 minutes a day. It leads to better mental health outcomes. What is the average amount of time we use social media? About two hours a day!
The average American spends five to six hours a day on their cell phones. About 90 percent of younger Americans sleep with their cell phone nearby, while about 50 percent of adults who are 60 sleep with cell phones at hand.
Why is credit card debt so high? More precisely, due to social pressure, online promotions, media influence, and wealth. Psychologist I. Durmonski wrote for Psychology that the chief reason we buy so much unnecessary “stuff” is that we’re bored and want to feel good.
When we add it up, many of us are spilling and spending our precious moments by flipping, clicking, and spending.
Let us now turn to those who search and save. Here are three facts about the value of your moments:
We have a clear choice. No matter our age, we can positively influence lives with our moments or selfishly hold onto them and be bored in them. Meaningful memories are made by precious moments.