Time Speeds Up As You Get Older

Ever feel like time speeds up as you get older?

In the book “Why Time Flies And Beauty Never Dies” Professor Adrian Bejan makes the case there is good reason we feel this way. Perceived time, sometimes called mind time, is different from clock time. Our perception of time changes as we age.

For example, a month is a signification portion of the life of an 8-year-old. On the other hand, a month is a much smaller portion of the life of an 80-year-old, causing the feeling that the month went by quickly.

In addition, perceived time is influenced by how much we have experienced.

Continuing the comparison, for the 8-year-old, each year is significantly different than the previous one. On the other hand, the life of the retired 80-year-old might not look much different than it did when they were 78 or 79. Because the 80-year-old is experiencing fewer novel and distinguishing events, they have a hard time differentiating points of time and perceive that time moved more quickly.

According to research, we do not perceive time per se, but rather changes or events in time. When we are infants, our brains are trained to absorb many different images, often changing quickly. As older adults, “the brain receives fewer images than it was trained to receive when young.” Therefore, we feel like time went by more quickly.

How can you slow time down?

There are several things you can do to feel like time is moving more slowly. The most impactful is to vary your routine. Try a new hobby, choose a different route when driving, or spend time with a new group of people. You don’t have to stick with these changes long term – in fact, it’s better if you don’t. With more varied experiences, you’ll perceive time moving more slowly.

Another approach is to practice mindfulness. Research has shown “mindfulness meditation has the ability to temporarily alter practitioners’ perceptions of time”. In a series of experiments, mindfulness produced the feeling that short periods of time lasted longer.

Finally, research has also shown that sharing experiences can slow down our perception of time. As one researcher wrote, “one way [to slow down time] and recall the details of experiences is to share them with others — verbally, in writing, or through photographs.” By contrast, loneliness can make time speed up, especially as you get older.

Even though time speeds up as you get older, you don’t have to let it pass you by. Create some new life experiences, be in the moment, and then share your memories with others.

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