The Days are Long But The Years Are Short

By Nicki Leaper 2021-04-06 15:04:55

It was courtesy of American author Gretchen Ruben that I came across the poignant phrase, “The days are long, but the years are short." It’s a time management conundrum that has lived itself out fully over the past year. And what a year we’ve had! The longest on record I’m sure. And yet when I think back to where I was a year ago (luckily, just arrived back in Shanghai after an extended Australian adventure) the time has passed in a blur.making way for bright green leaves and the buzz of mosquitos. When we stepped out of our un-tagged front door, I felt like I was walking straight into the start of summer. My favour- ite Shanghai season missed in a haze of temperature taking and zoom lessons.

Springtime last year felt like it happened without me. From my dining room table (aka ‘the classroom’) I watched as our apple blossom tree turned confetti white. The kids were distracted from learning by a ‘snow- storm’ of petals on a windy day and then it was gone, before we knew it, making way for bright green leaves and the buzz of mosquitos. When we stepped out of our un-tagged front door, I felt like I was walking straight into the start of summer. My favourite Shanghai season missed in a haze of temperature taking and zoom lessons.

This brings me to a quote by Annie Dillard, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.”

So, by choosing to be aware of the power of scheduling our time and activities, what can we do to make the most of our time in this city in its most brilliant season?


Be Grateful

It’s well recognised nowadays that gratitude is a key component of good mental health. Harvard Medical School research details that grati- tude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relation- ships. What’s not to like about that?

But how can you put it in to practice? Really easily. Grab yourself a note- book and pen, and at the end of the day write down three things that you are grateful for. They don’t need to be big or dramatic; they do need to be specific. The quick chat you had with a friend you hadn’t seen for ages as you were heading to work. The fact that there was no queue at your favourite coffee shop. The laughter on the sofa while watching Netflix before bed.

Building this reflection into a daily practice gives you time to relish your personal, small moments of joy on a regular basis. And we have much to be grateful for. The city is ‘open’ in a way that it wasn’t a year ago and we are lucky enough to be able to be out and about, seeing friends, socialising, in a way that is no longer a given in the rest of the world.


Schedule an Adventure

Okay, so we’re not able to travel cross- continent like we used to, but spring gives us the ideal opportunity to explore in our own back yard. Instead of just thinking about it, what might you discover if you were to actually commit to a weekly city excursion, to watch Shanghai blos- som and bloom? Here are some of my favourite outdoor ideas. Which will you choose to add to your schedule?

Shanghai Botanical Garden

Hop on Metro Line 3, head into Xuhui and escape to one of the largest municipal botanical gardens in China.

Spring is the best time to take in its beauty and colour with a spectacular array of magnolia, azalea and peony - many of which were developed here in China. Sometimes, all we need is a change of scenery to clear the head and remind us that beauty really is all around us.

Gucun Park

Metro Line 7 will take you into Baoshan and the beauty of Gucun Park, one of Shanghai’s Top 25 Can’t Miss Attractions according to Trip. com. A beautiful park that can entertain the whole family, it’s the stunning cherry blossoms in full bloom that make now the perfect time to slip away and enjoy a walk among the trees.

Chongming Island

Less than two hours drive from central Shanghai (well, maybe not on a holiday weekend) and you can reach Chongming Island, the northern most part of the municipality of Shanghai (so no health code issues coming here), and China’s third-largest island.

There are large scale forests, lakes and wetlands, sunrise, and sunset views over the sea and a number of cultural attractions - making this an ideal weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. Ride a bike, take a real walk. This is nature at its best within the city limits.



Change Up Your Day to Day

It’s all too easy to stick with ‘the same’, ’the known’, ‘the comfortable’ - particu- larly when daily life is busy. And yet the routine blurs not only the passing of time but also the emotions.

We can all plan to use our weekends and free time ‘better’ but what about deciding to make more of the everyday?

If we keep doing the same things, the same way we’ve always done them, day in, day out, we’re going to keep getting the same results. So what can you do to freshen up your daily rou- tine and make more of your time here in Shanghai?

How about changing your commute? Get out of the Didi a couple of blocks away from where you’re headed. Get off the subway one or two stops before your ‘usual’ and walk to your destination. You’ll get to notice the day-to-day details of a different part of the neighbourhood, and BONUS, you’ll get a few minutes extra exer- cise in without even noticing.

Challenge yourself to a week of dif- ferent lunch spots. Yes, grabbing a salad or some noodles from your usual place is easy and requires no thought but...I’ll bet there are at least a handful of places within a 10-minute walk that you’ve never tried. You might find a new favourite. You might find somewhere you hate. Whichever way, you’ll learn some- thing new, you’ll be more informed

about your local area and you’ll help spread your lunch money around to a few new local businesses, all of whom will be grateful for your support.


Mix Up Your Mornings

Shanghai offers so much to do, around the clock, so why not try out a new early morning activity to jump-start your day? When I worked inJing’ ing class once a week. It left me feel- ing hot, sweaty and virtuous - not a badwaytobeby8a.m. Agood shower later, followed by coffee, a tasty breakfast and 20 minutes of quiet time to read, and I was on my way to work with a spring in my step.

If that’s not for you, how about some early morning mentoring while enjoying a walk around Jing’an Park. IPWS (International Professional Women’s Society) and Mentor Walks run monthly morning meetups, offering you a chance to develop your own career or support the next generation of leaders - and all before 9 a.m.

Or what about adding in a simple walking break to the middle of your day? Just 15 minutes to refresh your mind and recharge your battery. Shanghai is full of surprises if you take a little time to look. Try wander- ing along the newly renovated Suzhou Creek; take an inspiring art stroll through M50 or the Sculpture Park, or simply enjoy a tree-lined street stroll. The new perspective that a change of scenery brings can make a huge difference to your day- to-day mental health.

However busy you are right now, know this: We all have the same number of hours available to us. Choosing ‘differently’, to schedule specific moments of Shanghai springtime fun, might just help you feel a little more in control of the ongoing time conundrum.