An Awareness of Time: A New Relationship With Time

Like all things natural, our bodies have internal rhythms. There are times during the day, or even the month, or the year, when we do things well, quickly, and easily. We have spurts of energy when we are at our best. And there are other times when our bodies cry out for rest, for down times. Many cultures incorporate these natural body cycles into the rhythms of daily life: think of the English with their afternoon tea or Hispanic cultures with the afternoon siesta when virtually everything closes down. In America we punish ourselves for feeling less than productive at all times. We drink another cup of coffee for its caffeine rush, and then we plod ahead, trying to accomplish all we can even when our bodies are crying out for some R&R time. We lose awareness of our need to rest, to do nothing. The irony of all this, of course, is that if we could get in touch with the body’s natural rhythms, alternating between periods of activity and rest, we would be much more productive in the long run.

A recent poll found that the average American had 37 percent more leisure time in 1973 than now. All of our technological advances, like computers, cell phones, e-mail, text messages, social media sites, and computerized gadgets everywhere, don’t really give us more time, contrary to popular myth. If anything, they contribute to time pressure. Giving in to this pressure serves to isolate us from other people so that we no longer have the time for easy personal conversation that tends to buffer us from anxiety and disease. We easily anger when someone slows us down or interrupts our concentration. We pay more attention to small, urgent details rather than developing an awareness of the most important things in our lives. Our self-esteem drops when we feel that we can never keep up or do all that we should be doing. We may lose sleep, eat poorly, avoid exercise, and rely on sweets, alcohol, or other drugs to keep us going.

Until the Middle Ages there were no clocks. Other cultures even now measure time more in terms of seasons or other natural cycles than by hours and minutes. Just two or three generation ago people had much more free time just to be, to enjoy, to develop more meaningful relations. This is not to suggest that we should go back in time, because we cannot. But we do need to get in touch with our more natural internal rhythms which are a primary source of stability and health and to incorporate this awareness into our everyday lives. Rather than trying to squeeze more activities into the time we have available, it may be more helpful to examine what is really meaningful in our lives and to devote our time to those pursuits. The quality of life can be much more meaningful than the quantity of things we try to cram into our lives. In other words, we may need to develop a new relationship – both with ourselves and to time.

Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT

San Diego Couples and Family Therapy serves the surrounding areas of Sorrento Valley Road as La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway, University City and Escondido.