It’s Friday evening, we’ve shut down our computers for the weekend and are heading home to our loved ones, out with our friends, or to finally become “one with the couch” as we’ve been dreaming about all week. Then, suddenly it’s Sunday night and it only feels like we’ve only just blinked. Rest and “play time” are vital for our mental health – we can’t show up to our lives (friends, work, family, ourselves…) if we haven’t given ourselves time to recharge and do what we enjoy. While many of us could make a somewhat persuasive argument towards why all weekends should span three days instead of two, until our work culture and overall society have a complete and total rehaul, here are some ways to make those precious two days off last longer.
Try at least one new thing you haven’t done before.
The more you incorporate new experiences into your day, the longer the day will feel. The basic idea is that our brains pay more attention and create more detailed, interesting memories of events that are “new” or “different” to us compared to those we know well. In a sense, when we’re doing something we do all the time, like driving to work or washing the dishes, our brains recognize the pattern, go into auto-pilot, and don’t feel the need to absorb as much detail from something it already knows inside-and-out. This weekend, take your dog on a walk along a different trail than you usually do, test out a new-to-you restaurant, or head out to the local theatre with your partner or friends rather than plopping down on the couch and turning on Netflix for the 10th weekend in a row. Or, dig out that pasta maker you got as a wedding present but haven’t ever used – turn it into a fun date night at home!
Fill your days with at least two different activities.
At the end of the day, if all you did all day was lay on the couch and watch reruns or play video games, you might just feel a pang of guilt for “wasting your day.” Perhaps it feels like you just woke up and you just can’t believe it’s already 6PM. While there is certainly a time and place for the laziest, most relaxing of days, if you’re doing them too often, chances are you could benefit from a little more physical, social, or mental activity – these are just as important as rest. While it may seem a bit counterintuitive at first, the more different kinds of activities you fill your days with, the more you will feel you got out of your day. Hence, the longer it will feel. Just be careful that you don’t go overboard and try to cram so much into your day that you don’t allow yourself to be truly present and enjoy each activity – make sure you’re not so worried about leaving one activity in time to make it to the next one. This can be a delicate balance to strike – but when you do, your days will feel longer and you will feel more satisfied and accomplished.
Be fully present in the moment.
Sometimes, our “autopilot” mode can be the culprit behind making time feel like it’s going faster and faster all the time, especially as we get older. Mindfulness is all about being present and grounded in the moment – that means that if you find yourself daydreaming over what you want for dinner while you’re out for coffee with a friend rather than actively listening to them, you need to reel your mind back in and focus on what’s happening right now, in front of you. Try to notice things you don’t usually when walking or driving around – the colors on the trees, the way the wind is gently tussling with the branches. Notice how the ground feels beneath your feet, or how lovely it is to sit and talk with your friend without interruption when you’re not checking your phone every two seconds. Practicing mindfulness is the key to slowing everything down – if it’s helpful, try out meditation. As you practice, you will get better at noticing when you’re not truly “present” and then bringing yourself back into the moment. Time really does go slower when we’re not multitasking by focusing on too many things at once, not really devoting our full attention to anything at all.
If we don’t pay enough attention to what’s going on around us and within us, and fall into autopilot doing the same things we normally do, our days will continue to fly by. This weekend, try something new, plan more than one event in your day, and practice being fully present in each thing you’re doing. You may just feel like you made better use of your weekend come Sunday night.