We place so much importance on physical health to prolong our lives by an extra few years, but what if we could literally double our life expectancy?
“Madness”, you’d say… Unless, our lives are not measured by its physical length but instead by how long we are aware, awake, and in control.
The majority of our day we spend on autopilot – I know I do – it’s both a blessing and a curse, as it makes habitual actions near effortless, but at the same time eats away at the hours we truly experience and appreciate being alive. It’s our minds way of conserving fuel so to not tire ourselves mentally with rehearsed tasks; tying a shoelace, driving a car, ironing a shirt. We form habits, and in doing so we need not make a conscious effort to remember how or when to carry out that particular task.
Sometimes however, we get dragged into this state of thinking, and life can literally fly by without realising. You need to be able to look back on the past few years and truly distinguish, small, otherwise meaningless moments. Such as a particular morning where you walked down that very same road to work, but this one morning a bird flew overhead and perched itself upon a small branch beside you. You acknowledged it, but maybe you didn’t appreciate it, because your mind was on autopilot getting you from point A to B. If this sounds familiar, maybe you need to slow down and appreciate the little moments in life, a little more.
Mindfulness is a brilliant tool which allows for greater awareness if practiced regularly. I’m currently reading a self-help book titled “Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world” by Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman, you can read more about the authors and their work at franticworld.com, it’s very insightful for those interested and worth considering a read. There was a fascinating section of the book which I quote below:
“If you are thirty years old, then with a life expectancy of around eighty, you have fifty years left. But if you are only truly conscious and aware of every moment for perhaps two out of sixteen hours a day (which is not unreasonable), your life expectancy is only another six years and three months. You’ll probably spend more time in meetings with your boss! If a friend told you that they have just been diagnosed with a terminal disease that will kill them in six years, you would be filled with grief and try to comfort them. Yet without realising it, you may be daydreaming along such a path yourself.”
― Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world
So, this sounds interesting right? But how do we obtain greater control over our minds?
As mentioned previously, too many habitual actions are really the downfall here, whilst you might not be able to turn habits on or off at your own free will, you can make a conscious effort to go about your day in a different manner. For example, take a different route to work (so what if it takes an extra 5 minutes), try a different restaurant or shop for lunch, do you have a specific routine every morning? Try mix it up, so that you need to think a little more. Only through challenging these habits will your brain need to kick into gear, and then, just maybe, you’ll start to appreciate those small moments in life you’ve been blanking out daily.
I’d also recommend reading more on mindfulness techniques (hopefully I’ll write a few posts on it in time), sourcing a self-help book such as the one I’ve mentioned above is a great starting point – it guides you through an 8-week meditation course, a very effective tool for gaining control over our minds.
Lastly, I’d like to leave a favourite quote of mine below, have a read and take a spare a few minutes to contemplate its meaning, I find it very sobering and apt when we think of longevity, our lifespan and how much we appreciate moments in time.
“Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”
― Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
Stay awake, stay open