Our Perception of Time as We Age

The days are long and the months are short. One day, you’ve graduated high school, the next day you’re married with children. Work feels mundane and repetitive because it is, and the time you have off flies by like it was never there to begin with.

Feeling as though life is passing you by is unnerving, like you’re out of control of how quickly everything is happening. Interestingly enough, physical time–minutes and hours–has remained the same our entire life. What changes is our internal perception of how time passes by.

Scientists reason that our perception of time speeds up because we’re not learning as much information as we did when we were children. Many adults do the same thing every day, week after week, and although routine is necessary for success and stability, it doesn’t always engage our brain’s stimuli.

Some events from our childhood can feel more memorable than events that occurred recently. This is because when you’re young, you experience almost everything for the first time, and doing something for the first time is usually always memorable.

When you are young and experiencing lots of new stimuli—everything is new—time actually seems to be passing more slowly. As you get older, the production of mental images slows, giving the sense that time passes more rapidly.

Physics explains why time passes faster as you age By Ephrat Livni
Why the Days Seem Shorter as We Get Older By Adrian Bejan

Slowing Down Time

Physical time remains the same, but our perception of time is changeable. There are ways to combat the inevitable acceleration of life, and how it seems to fly by before us. Two important elements are health and education.

Doctors usually say the something similar to, “Get a good night’s rest, eat healthy, and exercise.” Usually we all nod, and forget what he’s recommended a month later. If you want your day to last longer, it might be advantageous to start taking this advice.

Sleep is not only necessary for your brain to rest, but time goes by faster when you’re dozing off while half awake. Eating healthy brain food is critical for energy, function, and processing information. Exercise doesn’t have to be at the gym, it can be a new outdoor activity you’ve never tried.

Memory is short-lived and many of us just aren’t that engaged in the everyday things we’re doing, so if you slow down and engage more in the moment, and look back on everything deeply later, you may find time lasting longer.”

Santosh Kesari, MD, PhD from Why our sense of time speeds up as we age — and how to slow it down By Nicole Spector

Learning something stimulates the brain and changes our perception of time. When the brain doesn’t have lots of information to process or it’s processing the same things, time feels faster. Learning new information doesn’t just have to be out of a book or a documentary. Experiencing different things, going to new places, meeting people, and engaging in spontaneous activities are all forms of learning.

If you feel like your life is flying by, take a moment to look at where you are and what you’re doing daily. Make time to learn something new, find a new adventure, and take care of yourself. We only have one life, don’t miss it.

Adulthood and the Death of Youth

Coming of age is a staple theme in the modern day of storytelling. Everyone has a story from back in the day, and it’s commonly portrayed in literature and TV. Something that universally unites us as humans is witnessing our life change overnight and facing the price of freedom known as responsibility.

Once upon a time, we all had a dream. When someone asked us as a child what we wanted to be, we said and array of things: doctor, vet, pilot, fireman, actor, musician, etc. For many, getting older meant letting go of said dreams and facing reality. When do we become adults? Is it when we’re financially stable, married, have children, or all of the above?

[According to new research by CBS’ TV ratings guru David Poltrack and Nielsen Catalina Solutions], 30 happens to be the age at which millennials tend to self-identify as adults.

Millennials Don’t Consider Themselves Adults Until 30, Researcher Says byTony Maglio 

Way back when, boys and girls were considered adults at the age of twelve and thirteen. If you’ve read or seen The Lord of the Rings, the fantasy race of Hobbits reach adulthood at the age of 33. Who knew J.R.R. Tolkien could foresee where human development was headed?

But, it is the millenial parents who have convinced us that we aren’t adults. From financial support to constant approval, the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are constantly involved in their children’s adult lives.

We all have or have known a parent who had a hand in their child’s homework, always cleaned up after them, took care of situations for them, or constantly reminded them of things they were capable of handling on their own. In these parents’ eyes, they were and still are doing what’s best for their children. What suffers is the child’s on confidence in handling themselves as an adult.

As a result of not being babied or supervised themselves as children, as well as cultural shifts in parenting norms through the progression of technology, these generations overcompensated in their involvement with their Millennial children.

How Baby Boomer Parents Molded the Millennial Generation by Ilana Bodker

At 25, there are other young adults I know who don’t know how to do taxes, how to change a tire, cut the grass, or even use the right settings on the laundry machine. Instead of figuring this stuff out on our own, the first thing we do is call our parents and ask for help. These are the same parents who lecture us about how we need to “grow up.”

For me, adulthood is being financially and emotionally independent. Even with your parents, taking someone else’s money comes with a price. Letting go of the emotional reliance we have with our parents from birth is the only way to develop a relationship and family of your own.

Being young is liberating and fun in it’s own way, but it isn’t truly free. Getting stuck between adulthood and adolescence is stressful, and takes a toll on our mental health. I used to be scared of being an adult and controlling my own outcome, because I’d probably mess it up. It’s nothing to be scared of, adults fail all the time going after their dream. Adults make mistakes they have to fix. Adults figure it out on their own. We all have the same ability to take control of our own life.