Where Did the Time Go?
“Wow, this last year just flew by”, was the Facebook post from my friend just a few weeks ago. This post grabbed my attention and asked me why it feels like time is going faster now? So, I did some digging, and this is what I found.
Time is a fantastic marvel. We measure it in years, days, hours, and by the moments we remember. Einstein called it spacetime. Einstein’s research proved that time is relative, and gravity and acceleration are the two factors that slow downtime. Intuitively we have all felt the speeding up of time as we age.
The measurement of time by a clock and our perception of time are quite different. Psychologists have documented this speeding up of time with age for a while. The cause for this slowing down of time is still vastly unknown. There are many theories about it.
One of the explanations is that when you are younger, the years of life occupy more of the children’s conscious memory than an older adult’s memory. For an adult who is 50 years old, one year represents 2–3% of their life memories. That’s why we remember those days in school and the long summer breaks.
Another fascinating hypothesis comes from the biological processes. Children’s heart rates are faster than adult heart rates. Scientists believe their brains’ electrophysical waves and rhythms may be more rapid too. That’s probably why children keep asking if it’s time to go, although you just told them a few minutes ago precisely when you’ll leave home. Similarly, when you request a kid sit quietly for a minute, they say the minute is up after 30–40 seconds. Children’s brains register the time faster than adult brains, and they can have more conscious experience in a set amount of time. This leads to the subjective passage of time moving more slowly for children.
A recent theory by Professor Adrian Bejan hypothesizes that the perception of time is based on the changes in our visual field. We know something happened because we see it with our eyes. He hypothesizes that as we grow older, the rate at which we process visual information slows down, making the time go faster for adults.
Our perception of time is always a backward-looking process, reliant on memory. Although there are a lot of other components that contribute to the relativity of time, memories are at the forefront. Our visual field is like a camera. Like the movie, the fewer frames per second, the faster the movie frame seems to move. This causes the perception of time to pass more rapidly as we age.
Suppose you want to get geeky about how this occurs neurologically. According to Bejan, “as we age, the complexity of our brain’s neural networks increases. This means electrochemical signals must traverse greater distances and span more pathways, thus slowing signal processing. Moreover, aging causes nerves to accumulate damage that creates greater resistance to the flow of signals, further slowing processing time.”
The feeling of time flying is real and has its basis in quantum physics. Suppose you can do certain exercises to strengthen your neural connections, like learning new languages, taking up a new physical hobby, or playing a musical instrument. In that case, you can slow down this relative perception of time moving fast. I try to set a milestone for every quarter of the year, which has helped me keep track of the passing of time better than before.
I say you can slow down time; it’s in your control.
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About the Author
Aesha Tahir is a health and wellness coach and a certified personal trainer. She holds a Master’s degree in Applied Exercise Science and is certified by the NASM as a Personal trainer. She is a certified USA Track and Field Running Coach and Road Runners of America Coach. She is a 200-HR Registered Yoga Teacher. She is also a group exercise instructor specializing in barre, spinning, strength training, boot camp, and yoga classes. She has over five years of experience in the fitness and wellness arena with focused expertise in coaching, corrective exercise and injury prevention, individualized fitness programs, and group fitness programs. She is also an aspiring public speaker in the fitness and wellness world who believes in this quote; “To be inspired is great, but to inspire is incredible.”