As we grow older, it seems that every aspect of time seems to pass quicker. Every week seems sped up, every month seems shorter, and even a passing year seems like yesterday. It seems like the Christmas decorations that are starting to be placed in stores were just up the other day, and not last year.
Obviously time isn’t going quicker. Hours are still 60 minutes long, days still consist of 24 hours, and a year still takes 12 months and 365 days (366 in a leap year). But studies have suggested that the way we perceive time changes as we get older. Time seems to speed up.
Many psychologists believe that time doesn’t necessarily speed up, just that our perception of it changes with age. Biological changes in the human body that are natural with aging, such as a reduced output of dopamine from the brain, make an impact on our internal clocks. It’s also believed that advancing time means decreasing frequency of emotional and arousing experiences — such as a first kiss, first heartbreak, first award for achievement — that stick out in your brain. Those experiences stick out in the brain, and experiences afterward seem to blend into one’s memory and seem “sped up”.
The lack of emotional intensity as we get older is a product of “Habituation Hypothesis”, which simply means that the more and more we do certain things or get comfortable in certain places, the less those things and places stand out. Think about all of the times you go into “autopilot”, whether it’s driving to work, executing work tasks, or doing the daily routine with the family. It all tends to blend together into one memory, making past emotionally aroused experiences seem less further away than they actually are.
Going into “autopilot” is natural, as our brains are naturally wired to conserve energy to save to use on non-routine events. Everyday life is condensed into a smaller portion of our memory, and events that prompt emotions such as extreme joy, love, sadness and stress occupy much of our memory’s database. By putting so much of our energy into highly emotional events — events that happen less frequently as you get older due to experience — everything else is sped up.
There’s also the phenomenon of “Forward Telescoping”, in which landmark events take a disproportional amount of space in our brain due to the significance of those events in our lives at that point and afterward. That’s why you’ll hear couples that have been married 10 years make remarks such as “It only seems like we’ve been married five”. Because the memory of getting married is so implanted in their consciousness, it seems more recent than it is, which can be a jolt to the system.
Another reason why time seems to fly with age is simple math. In Paul Janet’s “Proportional Theory”, he suggests that each section of time (be it a month, a year, or even a decade) seems to go quicker than the last because, proportionally, it takes up less of your life than the one before it. Consider this quote by William James:
“The apparent length of an interval at a given epoch in a man’s life is proportional to the total length of the life itself. A child of 10 feels that a year is 1/10 of his whole life – a man of 50 as 1/50, the whole life meanwhile preserving a constant length.”
- How can we slow down time?
1. Search for the beauty of things: Finding more feeling in the events we experience lengthens time, as those feelings implant themselves on to us and transform us, giving us more awe-inspiring moments to look back on and extending out previous powerful memories.
2. Enjoy the present: Instead of always planning and strategizing your next move in the future, take a moment and appreciate where you are presently. Instead of trying to constantly speed yourself up to get to a future point, live in the moment.
3. Reduce multitasking: Our lives our often busy, which makes us want to accomplish multiple things at once. But getting a couple of things done at once doesn’t give you more time to make new memories. Instead, it causes you to use more of your mental capacity at once, diminishing your ability to make lasting memories in those moments. Relax and take things one at a time. You’ll be able to accomplish things that will have more of a lasting impact in your life.
4. Try something new: Since emotional, life-changing experiences are things that help fill your memory bank and slow down time, get out of your comfort zone and live a little. If you try something new, the odds of you making substantial, long-lasting memories are greater than if you do the same old thing. And more memories mean slowing down the perception of time.
Source: Collective Evolution
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