Monday, October 28, 2013

Time Getting Faster--an Illusion or a Reality?

by Julia Buckley

If you Google a phrase like "Time is Accelerating" you'll get all sorts of interesting results.  Some science sites suggest this is actually true, especially the farther you are from the earth's surface (therefore, theoretically, time would pass more quickly upstairs than downstairs).  Another science site suggested that the "earth's pulse" was increasing, that it was currently at twelve, and when it reached thirteen it would stop and reverse direction.

Hmm.  None of that really helped with my dilemma of why my weekends always disappear before I complete my required tasks--not to mention how my whole year disappears before I realize that a whole year has actually gone by.

I found a  more workable solution at Psychology Today, which suggested that my perception of time is just that--my perception--and that aging makes me perceive it differently because I have fewer "firsts" in my life to make time seem to stand still, or to make moments last forever.

According to Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D, time can seem distorted around big life events--that is, things can appear long at the beginning, but then seemingly accelerate to a quick end, as in a long vacation.  On day one, Riggio asserts, the vacation seems eternal.  But then time seems to accelerate and the end is there before one knows it.

He suggests that this is partly due to perception and attitude, and that in order to combat this feeling of accelerating time, one must maintain positivity.  As a teacher, I see this phenomenon with students and teachers and the notion of summer vacation.  In May and June, summer seems endless and vacation seems long.  But the minute July comes along, a dread creeps in: soon it will be August, and with August comes  the return to school.  It actually affects the quality of enjoyment of these weeks off, and it is a self-inflicted punishment.

Riggio says that we should bring all elements of time together in our positive mindset, focusing only on happy memories of the past, living in the present as much as possible, and holding a pleasing and optimistic view of the future.

Probably easier said than done, but certainly a good mantra to help combat the accelerating time phenomenon.  It is, after all, in the way one thinks, and I tend to think in panic mode, as in "I don't have enough time!"

Perhaps I need to take a page from Riggio's book and try to enjoy the present moment, letting the future take care of itself.  This is a difficult task for a type-A, achievement-centered personality, but I think it's a healthier attitude in the long run.

Do you ever feel that time is accelerating? That your years are tumbling by more rapidly than they once did?  And what, if anything, do you do to combat the feeling?


Steven M. Moore said...

Hi Julia,
On the other hand, there's also the well known phenomenon that our subjective time causes us to live traumatic events in slo-mo. I experienced this directly once when I hit an icy spot on road and had to choose between slamming into a mountainside on the right and going into a ravine on the left. I was able to control the skid enough to choose the mountain. It seemed like I had all the time in the world to make that choice, but it couldn't have been more than a few seconds.
BTW, I read later that a person who "chose the ravine" (more likely, just continued tangent to the mountain curve) died three days later from injuries. I figured that was one of my nine lives! My car had a banged fender and bumper. I came out only with a broken finger and some blood on my LPs (going home for Xmas from college).

Anonymous said...

There is also some neuroscience research that shows brain chemicals undergo normal aging changes as we get older. Those changes affect our perception of time.

One of the recommendations I've read is to have fewer clocks available and; give ourselves larger time windows — "I'll meet you at the coffee shop between 10:30 and 11:00." — and, as far as possible, work on projects according to interest rather than timing how much time we're spending on them.

Sheila Connolly said...

It frightens me that I have well over half a century of conscious memories. Maybe putting that label on it makes it seem longer.

On the other hand, I find when I'm doing sometime boring or distasteful, I remind myself that the time passes as the same rate no matter what I'm doing--all I have to do is wait, and it will pass.

Steven M. Moore said...

Maybe not a half century of conscious AND COMPLETE memories? I find I remember all the way back to making my own comic books when I was pre-kinder, but I can't for the life of me remember what they were about! Moreover, certain distasteful and painful events tend to blur over time.
Of course, these phenomena just might imply that the memories are there, but buried in our subconscious. The human brain is wonderful and mysterious, to say the least.

Julia Buckley said...

Steven, that is horrifying but true. I've been in a similar situation, and it does prove that notion of time's stretching capacity. Glad you chose correctly!

Julia Buckley said...

Sharon, that is interesting. I know that just about everything is brain-dependent and wired in, so that makes sense. Good suggestions!

Sheila, good to know that you still have those moments when you'd like time to hurry up! :)