If the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” holds true, we must be having a lot more fun as we age. Time certainly seems to zip by as the years roll on.
Interestingly, this time warp is not all in our imagination, says Dr. Allen Towfigh, medical director, New York Neurology & Sleep Medicine in New York City.
“Our brain seems to measure time relative to an event marker. In order to create this perception of time, markers must therefore be created in the form of memories,” Towfigh says.
Interestingly, our brains commit far more of these “memory bump” events in our youth, explains Towfigh, thereby slowing the perception of time.
“As we get older, life becomes more predictable and we tend to experience fewer ‘memorable’ events, and therefore perceive time to pass more quickly in retrospect.” This reflects the number of memorable events between the present time and the event in question, Towfigh adds.
This also explains a phenomenon called telescopy, a term that refers to the perception of events as far more recent than they’ve actually been. And as we pay less attention to time, we develop fewer memories and fewer time markers.
Meditation and being fully present in the moment can help slow time, as can being mindful and grateful.
Our brains commit far more of these “memory bump” events in our youth, thereby slowing the perception of time.
— Dr. Allen Towfigh
Try these six expert-recommended, time-slowing tips:
Instead of going on automatic pilot, stop to focus on the things you appreciate, people you love, experiences in your life.
“Write down three things you feel grateful for every day,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, author of Better than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. “Gratitude reduces activities in the stress centers in your brain, allowing you to slow down.”
Be in the Moment
When you try to concentrate on more than one thing, you often miss out on what is happening right in front of you, Lombardo says.
By practicing mindfulness we can show up and fully experience constant unexpected events throughout the day so they won’t throw us off course, says Allison Carman, author of The Gift of Maybe. “This space allows more room for us to find the calm and joyful moments each day brings.”
Take a Few Deep Breaths
When we become aware of our breathing, it is easier to pause and take long, deep breaths, says Carman. “Even one deep breath in the midst of chaos and a busy schedule can provide enough space and time to ask, ‘How do I want to react to this situation?’ With breath consciousness, we are able to become more mindful of our actions and how we choose to experience the moment.”
Practice a “Maybe” Mantra
Sometimes we get upset and become overwhelmed with our thoughts. We think we are stuck in a situation and things are not going our way, Carman says.
“We forget that life will change again,” she says. “Keeping the idea of ‘maybe’ close, we can remind ourselves that as bad as things may look or feel, there are always possibilities that maybe what is happening will turn out to be good. Maybe it will get better or maybe we can make peace with it and still be OK.”
Sometimes we don’t even realize that our worries, stress and anxiety have taken over our minds until hours later. Carman says: “Creating awareness of when and how our emotions get low or when we start to over-think and leave the moment is an ongoing practice.”
To practice becoming more aware, set an alarm at specific times during the day. When it goes off, stop, look at the clock and take note of what is going on around you and how you feel.
“By creating awareness around our thoughts and emotions, we have a guide as to when to use breathing, a ‘maybe mantra,’ gratitude and other techniques to try to gently come back to the moment,” Carman says.
Spend Time Doing Things that Bring You Joy
Hug a loved one, dance around the house, or cook a favorite meal, Lombardo says. “When you do what you love, time slows,” she adds.
You can find joy in a simple cup of coffee or in making time for a phone call with a friend. “Try to spread these little joys throughout the day to remind you what life has to offer when you are not over-thinking what the future will bring,” Carman says.