On Why Time Accelerate As We Age.

In 2 months I will be 26, and suppose that I get to live until I am 100 years old, my life is more than a quarter of the way over. For some reason, I’ve always envisioned myself to live until the age of 100, even though I might not last that long. But if I do get to live for 100 years, 26 is a new landmark because I have surpassed the first quarter while marching on into the second quarter of my life. They say that after you reach the age of 20, your life is half way over psychologically. This means the duration of your life, or the visceral and the subjective perception you have of how much time has passed by, goes by quicker as we age.  The last 1/4 of your life is supposed to go by quicker than the previous 3/4 of it, and THAT would go by quicker than the first 1/4 of it, and so on. Time is like a snowball that’s rolling down a hill, the more it travels, the faster it roll.

Why does time seem to accelerate as we age? I think part of the reason is because when we are older , we fail to be stimulated by new stimuli. When we are kids, everything we experience is new and novel. There are always new stimuli that are coming into our brains daily to stimulate our perception and cognition. When we are constantly learning new things and are bombarded by new information and stimuli, time seems to slow down due to the brain’s need to process all the new information that is filling up its spatial-temporal dimension. Also, when we are children, our lives are filled with “boring moments” that seem to slow time down, like the way you sit in classrooms and wonder when the bell is going to go off. Our lives are also less routine-like and more unpredictable, and with unpredictability, time seems to slow down due to the way the brain takes its time to respond to and process novel situations and information. But when we grow older, we tend to live our lives through routine after routine and that nothing seems new anymore.  Time speeds up when we are more less used to everyting that is happening around us.   When every week/day/month is indistinguishable from each other and as predictable as the next, we lose the sense of time as it disappears and dissolves in the back of our consciousness.

You know how when you drive down a new road, it always seems to feel like it takes longer to drive to the new destination than on the drive back? I think the same concept of new stimuli vs. old stimuli can be applied here. When you drive towards a new destination, every little thing around you is registered into your brain because your brain automatically becomes more alert during new situations in case there are dangers to be avoided. But the situation becomes less novel when you drive on a road that you’ve already driven on before; your brain relaxes because it knows that there is probably not going to be any danger, so it no longer needs to process all that information that it has already processed. The brain is an efficient organ, and when it doesn’t need to do any work, it relaxes in order to save calories and energy. When the brain relaxes and stops processing every little detail in the environment, you tend to lose the sense of time. I’m looking at the first couple of decades of my life like the drive TO the new destination, and it’s kind of sad to think this way, but the rest of my life is going to seem like a drive BACK from an arrived destination if I don’t continue to experience/learn new things and find new stimulants to keep my brain busy adapting and processing new information.

So how do you stretch time out like a blanket? I think the simplest way to extend our life is to find new experiences and new stimuli for our brain to process and adapt to. Moving to a new country or going on a vacation to a place you’ve never been before can certainly slow time down. During my vacation days the first few days always seem a lot slower because of all the new information that my brain is taking time to process. Or we can simply be more attentive to our present environments by squeezing more experiences and stimuli out of this mortal coil and pay attention to all the little details in the world. As humans we live in the future as future oriented animals. Our minds project themselves into the future automatically with our bodies playing catch-up. During a movie we are always thinking about the ending or the dessert we are having after the show. Or when we are working or going to school during the week we are always looking forward to or planning the weekend. This future oriented consciousness that we have is both a blessing as well as a punishment. We are able to plan things ahead and accomplish a lot of the things that animals fail to accomplish simply by projecting our consciousness into the future. But a lot of our misery also comes at the expense of this future-oriented attitude, as most of our worries are worries and fears about the events in the future and its uncertainties. So what we can do to slow down time is simply to try to unfold our consciousness back into the present. There are just too many things that we are not paying attention to in our everyday surroundings. I can name hundreds of things that my selective attention is filtering out at this given moment that I can be contemplating about to slow down time… and that is exactly what I am going to do now.