Why time does not fly and how to slow it down again

‘Time flies’ is one of these expressions that is used a lot, for a long time. But it has nothing to do with reality – for us humans, living on the planet earth, time is a constant. I’ll get back to the concept of time in a bit, but first: why time does not fly – but is does feel like it often.

Our brain and our memories

Remember when you where a child and days felt like months, hours could feel like days and now that you have a black belt in adulting the time just slips through your fingers. Amazing right? I’ve discussed this topic with dozens of people and they all perceive the same thing: time does seem to go faster while aging. Some mention that it could have to do something with routine: the more routine arrives in our lives, the less active memories we seem to have. Could this be the case?

Our memories define our perception of time?

So that would imply that our memories are causing us to experience time the way we do. Because in the moment, time is a constant, but when looking back we’ve just ‘lost’ track of time. And it’s not far from the truth, based on research I found on this subject. So the first theory is that time seems to go faster because of how our memory works. The more we repeat, the less actual notable memories are made and our brain efficiently leaves out the more or less repeating days.

It’s also called the holiday-effect: we tend to remember relatively more from our holidays then from the year of work between the holiday. Apparently the holiday creates more memorable moments then the usual routing of regular life.

Perception of time, over time. Clock time versus mind time. Source article.

It’s just part of the aging of our brain?

Another theory has more to do with the aging of the brain and the amount of synapses involved in processing images, emotions and such. The research suggests that where our brain works in a slow-motion way at first, picking up on everything, it starts to skip that when getting older. That would mean it is a matter of time, until we will experience time going by faster.

People are often amazed at how much they remember from days that seemed to last forever in their youth. It’s not that their experiences were much deeper or more meaningful, it’s just that they were being processed in rapid fire.

Bejan, researcher. Source article.

The concept of clock time and mind time is being used in this as well: the clock time is a constant, the mind time is a variable aspect of how the mind perceives time.

The fact remains that times does seem to go by faster while we age. And you might think: great, my weekend arrives much sooner. Or maybe not, because the same weekend you waited for goes by faster as well.

Is this a bad thing?

Recently I had an informal mentoring session with someone nearing his 40’s. He was worried, because he felt like time was slipping through his fingers. He was missing out on opportunities, to grow, develop, make the career he wanted. He has been busy with family life, work, and lost track of the path he once thought he’d follow. Not disappointed per se, but felt like he well.. lost track of time. So, is this a bad thing? Well of course not: he was doing what he needed to do, took time to reflect while talking with me and suddenly saw where he stands right now. Awareness, beautiful.

What can we do about it?

The first question is: do you want to do something about it? And what is that you want to do about it. Because let’s be honest: some things we have no control over, so we’re not going to spend time on this. For example: we cannot go back in time, so we’ll have to accept that we are right here, right now. Another thing is that we cannot go back to our brain we had when we where younger. While you sometimes thought: wow why is school taking so long, I wish time would go faster. You now often think ‘wow it’s already Monday, wished time would go slower.’.

So no trying to change the clocktime – that’s the constant, but our mind-time. That a variable, remember. We can actually influence that, in several ways. I’ll give you two examples.

Being present

One of the things our brain can do very well is living in the past – I should have, I could have, thinking about things that actually happend, or not – and thinking about the things that could happen, and probably never will.

There is actually one place in time, any particular moment, where you can truly experience the time. It’s right now. By being present, in this moment.

Nigel van Houten – on being present and beating the time paradox

For me this is my challenge in life: I have an incredible active mind that can give me ideas, thoughts, memories, all day long. It’s my dearest and best tool. But it is also keeping me from being present often. So I’m learning to use it as an actual tool, an important part of me, so I can sometimes just enjoy the moment. And let the clocktime define the speed of time, not the mindtime. And this is usually a lot slower.

Being present, means slowing down.

Nigel van Houten – on being present and beating the time paradox

One of the ways I’ve been earning more time awareness in combination with being more present is journaling. I’ll come back to that later, but it adds to the way we perceive time – and making active memories on a daily basis, on purpose. See the second advice I’d like to give you.

This is my son practicing Judo. I made sure I made this moment count. I felt present, while he enjoyed his young brains slow mind-time I enjoyed watching him.

Making new memories

The most simple and effective way to stop the feeling of time escaping from your hands is simply making new memories. Going somewhere new, enjoying new experiences, facing new challenges, big, life changing events, they’ll give you new memories guaranteed!

But even changing your job every week, or going on adventurous holidays will at the end not prevent the feeling of time going faster. Because even adventures will eventually look the same for your memory systems. That’s why we can make smaller changes as well. How many routes can you take to the job, or to the grocery store? Try a new one. Take a different road back. Go on foot, go by bike, break down those habits. Just add some change to your routine, and you’ll notice a difference.

Smart readers will think: if I change my habit AND be present while doing it, I’ll make an even bigger impact. Just give it a go and see what happens. It’s part of your awareness, and that is beautiful.

Nigel van Houten – on being present and beating the time paradox

Yes, you can learn this too

Wondering how you can revert the feeling of time slipping through your hands? You can learn this too. Just reach out and we’ll find a time. Very soon.

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