Another year over and you’re wondering where the time went? Well, although we can’t turn back time, here are a couple of tips on how to keep it from picking up speed as it goes by.
by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D
Why is it that time appears to go more quickly as we get older?
There are some recent books that tackle this psychological issue, and while there are a number of theories, the best explanation is that novel experiences seem to slow time perception down. Repetition of events seems to make them go faster…
I have written about time perception before, and readers have proposed some competing theories. One popular theory maintains that there is a sort of mathematical formula going on that divides our lifetime. As an 8-year-old child, a year is one-eighth of the lifetime – a significant (and memorable) portion; as a 50-year old, it’s only one-fiftieth. But that theory assumes that our brains work like computers, storing every single bit of information, like a filmed, life-long documentary. But that’s not how the brain works.
Perception and memory psychologists argue that memories are a social re-construction, not a literal record like computer files. Not every memory is stored as a distinct event, and the vast majority of our memories of places and times are not accessible.
Here’s [an] example: The first time you drive to a distant locale, it seems like it takes forever (remember that first weekend getaway, or commuting trip the first day of the new job?). As you repeat the drive, over and over, the time flies by, and you can’t recall any specific trip, unless something “memorable” happens. A really long traffic jam; a fender bender; etc. Or, the first day of a two-week beachside vacation seems to go on and on, a long, and enjoyable experience (“Wow, I’ve got two whole weeks of this!”). But before you know it, your packing for home.
So what is the key to time perception? Routine makes time go faster, unique and memorable events slow down time. Although there is comfort in routine, it does make time fly. So, if you want to “slow down” time… change the routine. Create unique experiences for each one. You can also engage in greater mindfulness – focusing on and savoring each passing moment. The old adage of “live for the moment” is the key to slowing down those quickly passing years.
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