Do you know the feeling that time seems to go by faster and faster as you get older? Every New Year’s Eve you are more amazed about how quickly the year has passed. And every month you think to yourself: ‘Wow, a new month already!’ Sounds familiar?
Why do so many of us experience this? We all know that time technically doesn’t go by any faster, so why does it feel like it does?
Why Time Flies As We Get Older
The more memorable events we experience during a certain time interval, the more memory ‘landmarks’ we create in our mind. The more memory landmarks we have, the longer a period will FEEL when you look back on it. This effect works both ways. If you did NOT experience a whole lot during a certain time period, it will feel like time flew by.
Generally speaking, many of us experience many ‘firsts’ when we grow up: going to high school, graduating, start living on your own, finding a job. Once we settle down and create less memory landmarks, we start feeling like time is flying by.
But other factors have an influence as well:
The feeling of not having enough time may be reinterpreted by our brain as the feeling that time is passing too quickly (Wittmann & Lehnhoff).
When you age, a time period (a week, a year etc.) is a relative SMALLER portion of your TOTAL life. This ‘ratio theory’ was first introduced in 1877 by French psychologist Pierre Janet. The theory suggests that we are constantly comparing time intervals with the total amount of time we’ve already lived.
When we were kids we paid A LOT of attention to time. We count down the days until our birthday, a school dance or a holiday. As adults we do focus on our agenda but we are paying more attention to goals, bills and the practical organization than the actual passage of time.
How To Slow Down The Perception Of Time
So, should we go out and experience a lot of fun things in order to slow down time? What about the saying: ‘Time flies when you are having fun’
This might seem like a paradox but the key here is the perception of time DURING the moment versus AFTER the moment. When you are in the midst of a fun or interesting moment, time flies. The reason for this is that during fun times you have less time to be focused on something else than what you are doing. Unlike when you are bored – you can sometimes feel time ticking away.
Make sure to keep having many exciting experiences AND have fun doing it. Time will seem to fly by in the moment and looking back, your days will seem long and fulfilling.
Now, stop what you are doing and go do something memorable!