The Illusion of Time

Time – aging with you or causing you to age?

It is not until the moments of a middle age adult experiencing a midlife crisis, to a mother mentally preparing herself to send her firstborn off to college, that one really begins to question, “Where did all the time really go?” It is a common dilemma all humans face, constantly wondering how much time they have left, and in a never ending state of wondering if they utilized it to its full potential. Humans perceive time in many different ways throughout the standard 24 hour day. One who is introverted often spends most of their time at home may perceive time as slow, in comparison to an extrovert who is constantly going out who may perceive time as fast. Although both sides utilize time in different ways, it is safe to say that no one can really seem to get enough of time and constantly wish they had more.

We often engage in events that make time seem to seamlessly pass by. However, once we look back on those specific events, it will seem longer than how we initially remember it. Research conducted by psychologists Marc Wittman and Sandra Lenhoff from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich concluded that participants older than 40 did in fact feel that time proceeded slowly in their early years, but then began to gradually accelerate throughout their early adolescent years to adulthood. Simply, our perception of time varies from what one is doing and their feelings associated with it. A student waiting for the clock to hit 2:35 may dread the long duration of time in contrast to a girl watching her favorite band live, wanting that moment to never end- coming to truth of the popular term, “Time flies when you have fun.”

Youth is filled with plenty of firsts – first kiss, first real relationship, first day of school – causing time to pass more slowly as majority of those milestones are raw and fresh. Youth and adolescence is saturated in new experiences and curiosity, leaving your brain with more to process. Young children “live in time” rather than being in a constant state of awareness that time is passing, which is why our childhood seems to stretch over a longer period of time.

As we grow older, our lifestyle becomes more routine-like, speeding up our perception of time. With age, we begin to experience fewer unfamiliarity, not giving us an opportunity to remember and reflect. In fact, as you age, each year is a smaller percentage of your life; a year is 10 percent of the entire life for a 10 year old, but only two percent of the entire life for a 50 year old.

Although it is clear that our perception of time simply varies from how one utilizes it, it is also clear that our brain plays a massive role on our perception of time. Our span of time is based solely on the memories one makes. The brain encodes new experiences rather than familiar ones, and our judgement of time is solely based of off memories, which is why we often remember that one crazy family Christmas party in more detail in comparison to taking the PSAT.

Throughout life, time shifts one’s mind set from how far they have come to how much time one has left. As time is inevitable, the only way to slow it down is by filling every moment with a new experience. Don’t seamlessly float through life: constantly try new foods, go on many trips, and fully indulge any experience.

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