How Play Can Help Gift us time


By: Samantha Fin

“When you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have. When you focus on what you have, you get what you lack.” – Greg McKeown.

 In our modern world, we have become addicted to being busy.  Which in turn, not only induces feelings of overwhelm, but can also lead to us perceiving time as slipping through our fingers. We pack more and more into our days, because we can (and think) we should. Our work duties, devices, cars, methods of entertainment are all designed to take us to top speed not optimum performance. We measure success at how many items we knock off our ‘to-do lists’ rather than how we feel at the end of the day. Then to counteract our feelings of overwhelm and burn out, we spend hours upon hours in front of the TV or surfing the net, mindlessly scrolling the carefully designed social media interface that has no temporal end. This, has a cyclical effect… mostly because we are too tired to interrupt the status quo.

 We say to ourselves, “I have no time” when in fact, time is highly elastic.  “We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we need or want to put into it,” says author and TED speaker, Laura Vanderkam. The phenomenologists believe that events happen, even ones that occur outside our lifetimes only in relation to our own lives. Meaning that time is a relative of consciousness. Time isn’t tangible, it is just a vehicle for experience but it’s not something we can taste, smell or see. We measure it with the tick of a clock or the setting sun, but our experience of time, our relationship with it, only gains meaning when we have something to set it against.

 And this ability to process and experience time only speeds up as we age. We forget to play. We forget to learn new things.  We forget the feeling of newness. And biologically, this is not only related to how we age, but it is how we age. The connections between neurons in our brain slow down as we limit our exposure to creativity, new ideas and good old-fashioned fun. Our relationship with technology also influences our relationship with time. As Eva Hoffman writes, our digital lives have led to the “abbreviated moment” and as such we “we risk losing not only the depth of dimension but of continuity… our links with the past, present and future.” Children however, perceive time with a different intensity, as they embrace new experiences and live more in the present moment. As we grow older our experience becomes routine and we forget to acknowledge the passing of time like we used to. We spend our time, whereas children live it.

 So, what can we do about it? The easiest and most effective way to slow down our perception of time is to put the phone down and engage in mindfulness practices, one being mindful play. Studies have proven a link between creativity, play and the ageing process. Put simply, being playful keeps us young. As Deepak Chopra says “Be happy for no reason, like a child”, meaning, not everything we do needs to have a purpose or reason behind it. When we live according to a to-do list, we can’t see the wood for the trees. We all know that kids are experts in living in the moment, and this ability to experience our present moment (rather than merely spend our time) is more of a gift than we truly realise.