The year is now over and once again it seemed to pass by faster than the previous. Time isn’t changing, just my perception of it, which can be at once explained and changed.
There are plenty of theories as to why, the more you age, the faster time appears to tick. The media site Vox just published a timely piece on the subject. After all, when a new year arrives, plenty of us wonder what happened to it.
Studies cited in the article found that in the present moment, time estimates don’t change based on age. For example, if you put a 20-something and a 60-something in a dark lab room and asked the participants how long they were in there, the answers are similar.
Where perception begins to differ is when those two groups are asked how they remember longer periods of time. The older a person gets, the more likely they are to argue for the time warp.
Psychologists William Friedman and Steve Janssen published a paper on the subject and outlined a few hypotheses. Some findings are obvious, such as the fact that childhood is filled with more memorable moments than adulthood, and with fewer milestones time can seem faster. Adults, of course, are also busier than children, and that busyness can appear to shorten time.
More important than this time perception problem that appears to worsen with age, is there is something we can do about it. Or, at least we can try.
Neuroscientist Dave Eagleman explained it to New Yorker magazine this way: “Time is a rubbery thing. It stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, ‘Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,’ it shrinks up.’
As a kid, so much is brand new. You’re taking longer to process information and, thus, remember moments lasting longer. Conversely, as an adult, more pieces of information are familiar, it’s easier to fall into a routine and this subsequent zoning out can make time feel like it’s passing more quickly.
The key is to stretch it out, even as it becomes more difficult as we grow older. And there are a few ways to elongate our perception of time. Some “mind-bending powers” are recommended by Belle Beth Cooper at the Buffer blog. Her suggestions have a common theme: Do something new. Learn new things, try new activities, meet new people, visit new places, and be spontaneous.
“If we feed our brains more new information, the extra processing time required will make us feel like time is moving more slowly,” she wrote.
Lucky for us, we live in a region where it’s relatively easy to discover something new, exploring a trail or ascending a peak for the first time. But it’s a lot simpler than that. Stay on the couch and learn a new language. Or make a new friend. All of these can extend our sense of time.
Of course, many days are filled with mundane life requirements and many of those are redundant. How often have you had a meaningful commute to work? Well, another tip for tricking the brain is simply being more aware of your surroundings and noticing something you may have previously overlooked. If you want the commute to last longer, be more mindful of your surroundings during the drive, or, better yet, take a different route.
Many commutes I would prefer to forget. And I do. What’s worse is when a day flies by, then a week, then a month.
So, this year my resolution is to complete more “firsts” – to surprise myself and savor a few more moments. I’m hoping to make 2016 last longer than 2015. Or at least my perception of it.
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