My how time flies!
Someone once said, “I don’t mind getting older, I just don’t like having breakfast every ten minutes.” The feeling that time is passing quickly seems to become more noticeable as we age. Summer break feels blissfully endless to a child, but an entire year can pass in what seems like the blink of an eye to an adult.
Time isn’t going faster, of course—there are still just 24 hours in the day and each one still has just 60 minutes in it—but science has shown that the “time flies feeling” is real. According to an article featured in Mother Nature Network, there are a few valid reasons why we notice this time-warping phenomenon.
First of all, the human brain uses a fair number of calories to function, so going on autopilot is one way for it to conserve energy. If we don’t need to think about doing something we’ve done a million times before, we can stop paying attention to it and save a little energy in the process. This calorie-conserving measure is part of the reason time seems to whip by. When we’re on autopilot, we’re not noticing all those small, unique moments that a child on summer break might slowly savor.
The drop in dopamine levels as we age also plays a role in all this. Dopamine is critically important to our ability to process time1, so when the levels of dopamine in our bodies naturally drop as we age, it can change the way we perceive time.
Obviously we can’t do much about the normal biological effects of aging, but there are ways we can slow down the speeding train and return to a more comfortable pace like we used to enjoy when we were younger.
- Change up your routine. We are creatures of habit, but doing everything the same way every day is how we can easily slip into autopilot. Do something different to break out of that daily grind. Walk to a coffee shop for your morning cuppa, have lunch outside on your porch or balcony, make a point of going out in the evenings right in the middle of the week instead of saving all your socializing for the weekends, read a book instead of jumping on the computer before bed. Every break in your routine will help your day feel different than the one before, making it very difficult for “autopilot” to rear its ugly head.
- Learn something new. Part of the reason time seems to pass so deliciously slowly when you’re a child is because you’re always doing or learning something new. All those brand new experiences are registering in your brain, making the days feel different and memorable. Replicate that by taking a class, learning a new language, picking up a new hobby, joining a group, reading a new genre—anything to get your mind experiencing new and different things every day.
- Be present. It’s very easy to get lost in the past or focused on the future. The danger in letting your mind constantly wander back or ahead is that you’re not noticing the here and now. It’s yet another way to get stuck on autopilot. Making an effort to be wholly present in each moment will help time seem to slow down. If there’s something you enjoy doing, do more of it because chances are you will be focused on that present, enjoyable moment and notice all kinds of new things in the process.
- Stop multi-tasking. We often look at our ability to do a million different things at once as an important skill, but not fully focusing on one task at a time is a surefire way of losing track of time altogether. If you’re doing three things at once, you probably won’t really remember doing any of them—it will all be a blur. It’s hard to change a lifelong habit, but try doing just one thing at a time and see how much better you remember all the little details that you probably didn’t notice when you were trying to do a bunch of things all at the same time.
We are living longer and healthier lives than ever before, so it’s nice to find ways to slow down and truly savor time. For more tips on slowing down and enjoying life visit TinyBuddha.com.
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