“Christmas?? Already??” I began my yearly holiday greeting letter. Where did the year go? A frequently expressed sentiment! So I was quite intrigued by an article I came across in the Huffington post. The author, Jillian Wilson, described that there is a reason why we may feel “like the years moved slowly when you were a kid, but zoom by now.”
Experts say, Ms. Wilson reports, that our perception of time greatly changes as we age due to several factors. Are we in the moment experiencing an event or are we looking back on it? Memory and how much one has experienced influences perception. For example, in the life of an 8-year-old, a week is a big portion of their life. For an 80-year-old, a week is a much smaller portion of their life, making the experience of time feel much faster.
Curiously, the brain “lumps time together when the days or weeks are similar,” with the result that for an 80-year-old whose days generally run the same course, the year is going to blend together and seem to pass very quickly.
When one stays active with a variety of activities and variation in routine, time seems more expansive. Adrian Bejan, professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University, encourages folks to experience things that are new and out of one’s usual routine in order to contribute to a sense of time expanding.
When I explored this topic, I found numerous related articles, articles on time perception and ADHD; on time perception and depression; relationship to substance abuse, to schizophrenia. I even found an account of research exploring “tired brain cells” as a cause of time distortion. ( I think I have some of those!)
Come next year, I can almost guarantee I will be saying some version of “where did the year go?” I am not sure I entirely believe that varied routine and new experiences give the perception of expanded time. It seems like the more active and involved I am, the more time seems to speed by. But I do find it fascinating that we each have the same 24 hours in every day and the length of minutes never varies. Yet our perception impacts how long or short those minutes and hours and days are.
Henry Van Dyke would remind us:
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate
Hope’s Café Bonus: “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you are the pilot.”—Michael Altshuler