"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Why time passes faster as we become older (and the best way to slow it down)

April 18, 2023 – Time can feel like a rest room paper roll – it rolls off faster and faster the closer you get to the tip.

Psychologists and social scientists know that point passes more quickly as we become older. But why is that?

It is just not just a tutorial study. Our perception of time has real effects on our mental health. The feeling that point passes faster is linked to Fearwhile time is slowed down – by Mindfulnessfor instance – may also help us feel less stressed and more relaxed.

The topic has attracted particular attention recently, due to the pandemic, when many individuals – greater than 80% in line with a recent Survey in Great Britain – felt that point passed otherwise in the course of the lockdown.

But scientists are still attempting to unravel the mysteries of time perception. Some say it's related to how long we've lived – a 5-year-old perceives a 12 months as long since it's 20% of his life. Others point to changes within the brain. Research Report 2019 suggests that our ability to process visual information declines with age; we perceive fewer mental images, and it feels like time is passing faster.

Now a new study from Hungary adds one other piece to the puzzle.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers divided 138 people evenly into three age groups: 4 to five, 9 to 10, and adults 18 and older. Each person watched two one-minute videos. The videos looked and sounded similar, but had one significant difference: one had more motion (a police officer rescues animals and arrests a thief), while the opposite was monotonous (prisoners escape in a rowboat).

The scientists asked the study participants two questions: “Which was longer?” and “Can you show the duration with your arms?”

Their answers “showed a striking age effect”, the study While the youngest group found the eventful Video than longer, most 9- and 10-year-olds – and the overwhelming majority of adults – identified the uneventful Video longer.

“For children, time is satisfaction,” said the lead study creator Zoltan NadasdyPhD, Professor of Psychology at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary. “As we grow up, time becomes more and more of a currency. When people steal our time, we feel like they are stealing money from us. This is very unfortunate.”

Why this happens

The study provides evidence of a “shift” in the best way we estimate time – which occurs between ages 6 and 10. At this age, children learn to consider time as “absolute,” Nadasdy said – that's, independent of our perception, all the time moving, whether it feels fast or slow.

“In our culture, we think of time as an unstoppable, unidirectional flow,” he said.

Time becomes “less subjective, more independent of actions and events,” the study says. We learn to not depend on our perception, but to continually check time – for instance by taking a look at a clock or the position of the sun within the sky.

“We are only trying [time] “It's like stepping into a river,” Nadasdy said, “although sometimes, based on subjective experience, it feels like the river is flowing faster or slower.”

When we're busy or distracted – or engrossed in an exciting video – we may forget to maintain track of time. On the opposite hand, after we're watching a boring movie or waiting for somebody who's late, we're continually checking the clock, wondering when the movie will end or the person will show up – and time passes more slowly.

For children, “time felt slower when things were interesting and stimulating – more interesting things were happening. As adults, we tend to experience the opposite. Time flies when we're having fun,” said the psychology professor Adam AndersonPhD, from Cornell University, who was not involved within the study.

How young children estimate time

The second query the researchers asked study participants—whether or not they would use their arms to represent the duration of every video—highlighted the various ways children and adults perceive time.

Of the youngest children, half made vertical gestures and half made horizontal gestures. In contrast, 85% of 9- and 10-year-olds and 90% of adults preferred horizontal arm movements – reflecting the mental image of time as a straight line moving from left to right.

“Adults think of time as length, like distance, and experience it as 'longer' or 'shorter,'” Anderson said. “Children tend to think of time as magnitude, more like brightness or volume.”

What surprised Nadasdy was that nobody thought the 2 videos were the identical length. “Everyone was convinced that one or the other was longer.”

“This is interesting because it is assumed that cognitive functions get 'better' as our brains develop,” says Anderson. But that is just not what this study showed. “From a neurodiversity perspective, adults are not better at judging time” – they judge time otherwise, not higher.

Anderson was the lead creator of one other recent study, Published in Psychophysiologywhich found that our perception of time could also be related to the length of our heartbeats. The people on this study, who were fitted with electrocardiograms and asked to take heed to a brief tone, perceived the tone to be longer after an extended heartbeat and shorter after a shorter heartbeat. The heart may play a job in our sense of time, the researchers found.

So how are you going to decelerate time and revel in it more like you probably did as a baby? Try the following pointers.

Take time to reflect on joyful experiences.

This will enable you fit them into your personal schedule, make them lasting memories and offer you the sensation of living a protracted, fulfilling life, Nadasdy said.

Hear what’s happening within the lives of your folks and family. “These lives and yours run parallel,” Nadasdy said. “You can live parallel lives simply by paying attention to others and sharing their perspective. It multiplies your experience and your life.”

See the world from the attitude of a four-year-old.
Attention plays a key role in how we process time. When we're distracted, time passes faster. When we're present and engaged, it slows down. To concentrate on the here and now, try considering like a four-year-old – or, as Nadasdy said, “Experience the world around you as if you had to tell someone at the end of the day exactly what you experienced.”

Concentrate in your respiration.
Start a stopwatch, close your eyes and concentrate on your respiration for a minute. Open your eyes to see how accurate your time estimate was.

“This can give you a sense of how connected your body sense is to your sense of time,” Anderson said. “It will help you enjoy the pure sense of time.”

Take care of your heart.
This is difficult for most individuals: Run a stopwatch for a minute and consider counting every heartbeat you are feeling. Check your accuracy with a heart rate monitor on a smartwatch or App.

“When you start this exercise, you may only feel a few heartbeats,” Anderson said, but you'll recuperate over time. “Our research and that of others shows that heartbeats control our sense of time. By paying attention to our heart, we can control our sense of time and slow it down.”

Slow down your heartbeat.
You can even “help reframe the way your brain and heart perceive time” by respiration slowly to slow your heart rate, Anderson said. Breathe in for 4 seconds and out for six seconds; repeat a couple of times. This signals the parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body and slow the center rate.

“We show that a slow heart rate – that is, a longer period of time between heartbeats – stretches and slows down time,” Anderson said.