“When we’re young we may sometimes wish for time to pass quickly, so school will be over, and we can enjoy our time off. When we’re old, we may wish time passed more slowly as we have fewer remaining years with which to enjoy our lives. The problem isn’t our age, however, but the processing of familiar information. If we perceive time more slowly when we’re processing the unfamiliar, than the frequent introduction of the unfamiliar could help our perception of time from rapidly shrinking.” David Eagleman
The sense that life is catching up with us is a common feeling of ageing. When we are children, a year of life amounts to most of our whole existence. We are constantly being introduced to new ideas and experiences which leave lasting impressions on our memories. It feels as if our childhood lasted a lifetime. Some say our perception of how we experience time as a child is slower but how can we explain time the feeling of time speeding up as we age?
It appears that humans gage time on memorable events. With that said as we age fewer new things occur. As we age, we aren’t forming as many daily memories. David Eagleman’s profile in the New Yorker, written by Burkhard Bilger, explains further:
“This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,” Eagleman said-why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.”.
Whilst we are unable to physically stop or slow time there are ways in which we can slow life down by creating lasting memories. “The swiftest hours, as they flew,” said Shakespeare or more commonly known as ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. Yet, we remember this as a long and lasting experience of time. Creating new and unique memories can, therefore, make time feel elongated and give it meaning causing memories to stand out. And it’s not just creating new experiences but also learning new information which takes the brain longer to process and in effect makes time feel like it goes slower.
“Time is this rubbery thing…it stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, ‘Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,’ it shrinks up.”
We know that learning a new skill and continually challenging your mind can help slow cognitive decline. And by giving our brain new information, we ask it to continually process. In doing so, our perception of time will change and make us feel as if it is moving more slowly. Changing our perception of time could, therefore, stretch out our days and we feel as if we are living longer.
So, what can we do to ensure that we live longer and fuller lives?
Here are 5 ways you can slow time:
1. Try new activities
Exercising your brain with new challenges. Trying new activities requires you to be alert and concentrate as you absorb new information. Take on a new hobby such as a sport or an art class to keep your mental activity thriving as well as helping to boost self-confidence. Competitions also give us valuable adrenaline rushes!
2. Be spontaneous
Surprise! Just like new activities surprises require our attention. Overwhelming the brain can help to slow time down. A spontaneous experience causes our senses are heightened as our brains have less time to prepare and will, therefore, take longer to process information we receive.
3. Keep learning
The process of learning new information can help slow cognitive decline as well as stimulating new brain cell growth. It gives your brain a new set of information to digest.
Take reading as an example. Ever felt like there are so many books to read and not enough time? Challenge your inner FOMO (fear of missing out) and test yourself to read 30 mins a day. Who knows you could create new and lasting memories, slow down time and remain cognitively challenged?
4. Visit new places
Fancy a change of scene? Visiting a new place gives your brain the gift of information to interpret and process. New smells, sounds, people, tastes and colours.
Regularly exposing your brain to new environments doesn’t have to mean becoming a jetsetter but choosing to work from a different office, visiting a new restaurant or attending an event in a new location will challenge your brain and create new memories.
5. Meet new people
Meeting new people can be exhausting. But this can only mean one thing – stimulated brains. When we interact with new people our brain must work to take in new names, body language and voices all which take effort to process.
To read more on slowing ageing check out our Ageing Unlocked episode with Professor Malcolm Johnson.