27 votes

Is anyone else here trying to understand or deal with how 'time flies by' with age?

I remember, as a child, how one day would seem like an eternity.

Now, I am entering my fifties and one day feels like minutes. This is something that I've been slowly noticing over the past five years.

I found a recent article about this phenomenon that describes it as the 'holiday paradox'. It's a short article if you're wondering.

To be brief, this experience has been troubling me for almost two years. I am distressed that each day seems to feel like mere minutes have gone by. To explain, I greatly enjoy life and I hate the way this phenomenon is making me feel.

22 comments

  1. [3]
    rosco
    Link
    I have wrestled with this issue quite a bit. I think the "time warp" comes from repetition. When your life has a consistent, almost unchanging routine, time flies. Your brain isn't having to...

    I have wrestled with this issue quite a bit. I think the "time warp" comes from repetition. When your life has a consistent, almost unchanging routine, time flies. Your brain isn't having to process much and you can get by on autopilot. The clearest version of this is when you do an out and back hike or drive to a new place, the leg back feels waaaaaay shorter than the one going out.

    I had this revelation while on a 5 month bike tour. We were rained on for over a month and it felt like a lifetime. Every day was different, every day we spent considerable energy figuring out our route, where to set up camp, communicate in different languages while shopping. Not one task of our day was easy and so our days dragged on, but in a fulfilling way instead of a frustrating way. I tried to take some of these lessons into the pandemic with me. Do weird physical projects, take remote language lessons through the adult school, try out new hobbies...

    It doesn't change the fact that I'm getting older but it prevents months from just slipping away.

    16 votes
    1. [2]
      bhrgunatha
      Link Parent
      You might enjoy an episode of BBC Radio 4s Seriously podcast - Why Time Flies (and how to slow it down) that talks about exactly this. One idea I found interesting is that we may perceive time...

      I have wrestled with this issue quite a bit. I think the "time warp" comes from repetition. When your life has a consistent, almost unchanging routine, time flies.

      You might enjoy an episode of BBC Radio 4s Seriously podcast - Why Time Flies (and how to slow it down) that talks about exactly this. One idea I found interesting is that we may perceive time slowing down when our brain uses more energy on a particular task.

      6 votes
      1. rosco
        Link Parent
        Oh sweet! I'll definitely check that out.

        Oh sweet! I'll definitely check that out.

        2 votes
  2. [2]
    sharpstick
    Link
    Another aspect of this phenomenon is that as we get older and gain experience we are much better at extrapolating consequences of our actions and so we spend more time projecting ourselves into...

    Another aspect of this phenomenon is that as we get older and gain experience we are much better at extrapolating consequences of our actions and so we spend more time projecting ourselves into the future by hours, days or even years. It's an important executive function that allows us to be responsible and dependable. All of the things we tell our kids to be and for good reason. When you are a kid your reasoning barely and extend in front of you a few minutes everything else is an abstraction. In the summer you know school will start again but you have no clear path through time for how you will get there so it always seems far off until, boom, it's time to go back to school.

    13 votes
    1. suspended
      Link Parent
      Very interesting. Thanks for commenting.

      Very interesting. Thanks for commenting.

      1 vote
  3. [6]
    teaearlgraycold
    Link
    You could always take psychedelics to slow down a day once in a while. Honestly I think the experience of being high on shrooms is similar to how I remember perceiving the world as a child. It...

    You could always take psychedelics to slow down a day once in a while. Honestly I think the experience of being high on shrooms is similar to how I remember perceiving the world as a child. It shuts down the most used pathways in your brain, forcing thoughts to take lesser used parts of your white matter. As a kid you’re too young to have deeply trodden mental pathways. So everything is being perceived fresh and without the burden of framing.

    8 votes
    1. [4]
      cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Agreed about Mushrooms. In my experience they are a fantastic tool for returning to a child-like state of mind. But for people uncomfortable taking that approach, I have also found that...

      Agreed about Mushrooms. In my experience they are a fantastic tool for returning to a child-like state of mind. But for people uncomfortable taking that approach, I have also found that Mindfulness meditation can effectively accomplish something similar too; It helps slow down your perception of time passing by forcing you to be truly "present" in the moment, and the more you practice it the more it can habituate you to that state of mind too.

      cc: @suspended

      12 votes
      1. [3]
        NoblePath
        Link Parent
        For anyone wanting to get technical, research the default mode network. It’s way over utilized in the contemporary western world.

        For anyone wanting to get technical, research the default mode network. It’s way over utilized in the contemporary western world.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          teaearlgraycold
          Link Parent
          I'm curious what you mean by that.

          It’s way over utilized in the contemporary western world.

          I'm curious what you mean by that.

          2 votes
          1. NoblePath
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            The DMN has been compared to an "orchestra conductor." It's what directs the brain to Get Things Done. Not just ordinary brain functions, but executive functions and higher planning, pulls it...

            The DMN has been compared to an "orchestra conductor." It's what directs the brain to Get Things Done. Not just ordinary brain functions, but executive functions and higher planning, pulls it together.

            Contemporary western society is overly concerned with performance and progress (as an approach to organizing effort, not an ideology). We want to get humans on Mars, cure cancer, shrink government (at least some of us). We also want to increase productivity, meet performance metrics, etc. These goals are accomplished by the focused effort of brains, and that effort requires a strong DMN.

            Maybe it's encapsulated in the dramatic expression in some movies, "we were so concerned in whether we could, we forgot to examine whether we should." Broader, holistic thinking involves brain activity not dominated by the efforts of the DMN. Great advances in science are often reported as being the result of serendipitious connections, or by intuition and inspiration arriving while focused (or not) on other stuff. This is an example of a relaxed DMN allowing the rest of the brain to recognize valuable incongruities and non-sequiturs.

            I also think (and this is just my musing) that things like Douglas Adams style comedy is an example of a diminsed DMN, and reading it is an exercise in relaxing the DMN. Although there was plenty of DMN activity required to actually write and publish the novel.

            Meditation, non-directed recreation (think about playing with a stick in a creek), non-competitive exercise, innovative art, and psychedelics can all mute our DMN for a time.

            Addendum:
            Ram Dass tells a story of one time he was giving a speech about his far out ideas. He noticed an old lady near the front, who was nodding along. He took it as a challenge, and expounded increasingly weird and esoteric ideas and experiences, but not matter his extremity, the lady kept nodding along. After the speech, he went down to talk to her. She said she was impressed with his knowledge, and was happy to find someone who so closely mirrored her own ideas and experiences. Ram Dass was aghast, and asked how she came to have this experience of the universe. He expected to hear she was some low key shaman or unknown savant. But her response was simply, "I crochet."

            2 votes
    2. suspended
      Link Parent
      I won't dismiss your suggestion. I want to do a little research first. Thanks for the feedback.

      I won't dismiss your suggestion. I want to do a little research first. Thanks for the feedback.

      5 votes
  4. [3]
    wedgel
    (edited )
    Link
    This dawned on me years ago and as far as I know it's my own bullshit, enjoy... As you age your perception of time shrinks accordingly. You're trying to measure on a constantly sliding scale....

    This dawned on me years ago and as far as I know it's my own bullshit, enjoy...

    As you age your perception of time shrinks accordingly. You're trying to measure on a constantly sliding scale. Think about how long the summer is when your a kid. Say you're eight years old. That summer is roughly (3 months/96 months) 3% of your life. At 40 it's roughly ( 3 months/480 months) 0.6%. It's like percieving distance only your reference point is always moving away. The actual time is still the same, so don't let it get you down.

    I think we should vary experiences and keep learning new things, just like they say in the article. But I'm a little skeptical that it'll change our perception of time. Instead, I think we'll become better people, who have lived more interesting and more fun lives.

    7 votes
    1. rosco
      Link Parent
      I agree that has something to do with it, but I feel like your brain is also more active in your youth. Things are new, you're constantly learning, your brain is on overdrive. Then we hit the...

      I agree that has something to do with it, but I feel like your brain is also more active in your youth. Things are new, you're constantly learning, your brain is on overdrive. Then we hit the working world and for most of us it becomes rinse, wash, repeat. Put some new inputs in your brain and see if things slow down.

      5 votes
    2. cloud_loud
      Link Parent
      Yes this is the most accurate answer here. I remember how fast the school year went my senior year of high school compared to my freshman year of high school. Nothing really changed, it's just...

      Yes this is the most accurate answer here. I remember how fast the school year went my senior year of high school compared to my freshman year of high school. Nothing really changed, it's just that I got older and my perception of time changed.

      Regardless of what you do, travel the world, read books, time is still going to keep getting faster. You're never going to get back the sense of time that you had in your youth.

      3 votes
  5. [4]
    mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    I am very familiar with that feeling. Days, weeks, months, even years go by very quickly. I feel like I blinked my eyes ten years ago and now I'm almost 40. On the one hand it's kinda nice, I...

    I am very familiar with that feeling. Days, weeks, months, even years go by very quickly. I feel like I blinked my eyes ten years ago and now I'm almost 40. On the one hand it's kinda nice, I don't want life to feel particularly long. It might get boring. On the other, dreams and goals can easily zip through me, leaving me frustrated.

    5 votes
    1. [3]
      suspended
      Link Parent
      I, probably, have a different view here. I have been learning so many different things from so many different fields over the past 10 years. This excites me and I want to interact with all of this...

      It might get boring

      I, probably, have a different view here. I have been learning so many different things from so many different fields over the past 10 years. This excites me and I want to interact with all of this as much as possible. I, also, want to contribute as best as I can.

      Anyway, thank you for chiming in.

      6 votes
      1. [2]
        UniquelyGeneric
        Link Parent
        If I can proffer some "wisdom" gained after merely 30 personal solar revolutions, the holiday paradox relies on our brain's processing speed. Granted, I'm no neuroscientist, but I know a good...

        If I can proffer some "wisdom" gained after merely 30 personal solar revolutions, the holiday paradox relies on our brain's processing speed. Granted, I'm no neuroscientist, but I know a good amount about computers and I think we've reached a similar threshold with modern processors where the physical limits of electrical signals is more of a barrier than the density of neurons/semiconductors. This keeps a ceiling on the raw limit of information our brain can process, and in general our brains are well suited for daily survival.

        When novel events happen, however, I believe our brain tries to process so much new information that it cannot process/aggregate enough insights under the ceiling, so it stores raw data to our memories for subconscious (asynchronous) processing later...likely through dreams. Those raw memories are our mental record, and what we recall when we think "where'd all the time go?".

        I had a recent near-death experience (will make a Tildes post about it when I'm ready) while also passing the 30 milestone, which have made me reflect more than usual about my memories, and I can certainly feel an acceleration starting after 18.

        I'm not sure whether the pandemic speed up, or slowed down time for you, but for me I forced myself to introduce new experiences to keep up memory novelty in an environment (my apartment) that was going to be excruciatingly similar every day. It takes time, but I was able to pick up a new skill (guitar) and hobby (cycling) by just putting in the hours. Granted, many days were practice/routine, so those are all a blur to me, but I don't feel like time has slipped me by this year. The other years, I didn't even realize that the good/comfortable times I had enjoyed were so unremarkable that I would be forgetting them just years down the road.


        Put more simply: I live in a walk-up apartment. I joke with visitors that after a month you "blackout" the stairs so you never think about them again. However, I can remember each and every time I ever carried a heavy object up/down the stairs. If you don't want time to slip by, it seems you have to carry heavier objects.

        Your above comment that there's so much to interact with is true, and seems it will only continue to be truer going forward. Instead of getting stuck with analysis paralysis during the pandemic, I decided to focus on my strengths (music) or fill in larger gaps that I could do with little effort (cycling). Perhaps instead of feeling like the opportunity of time is slipping through your fingers, you can reframe as a prioritization of what's important enough to spend your time on. You may only be able to carry one heavy object up the stairs at a time, so focus your time on what that object should be.

        9 votes
        1. Tardigrade
          Link Parent
          To possibly expand on that analogy I'm sure some of those objects were fun objects as some of them tedious. Just because something takes mental effort doesnt mean it isn't an enjoyable persuit.

          Put more simply: I live in a walk-up apartment. I joke with visitors that after a month you "blackout" the stairs so you never think about them again. However, I can remember each and every time I ever carried a heavy object up/down the stairs. If you don't want time to slip by, it seems you have to carry heavier objects.

          To possibly expand on that analogy I'm sure some of those objects were fun objects as some of them tedious. Just because something takes mental effort doesnt mean it isn't an enjoyable persuit.

          4 votes
  6. Amarok
    Link
    That's my pretty pony time. One of King's better short stories, imo. :)

    That's my pretty pony time. One of King's better short stories, imo. :)

    3 votes
  7. [3]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. [2]
      suspended
      Link Parent
      I disagree here. I and many others aren't afraid of death. Also, I did not express any anxiety. Maybe just frustration at best. My point was that I relish in my human existence and want to prolong...

      I think the real anxiety is just the fear of death.

      I disagree here. I and many others aren't afraid of death. Also, I did not express any anxiety. Maybe just frustration at best.

      My point was that I relish in my human existence and want to prolong that experience as much as possible.

      1 vote
      1. crdpa
        Link Parent
        This is fear of death. It has many forms. The Denial of Death (Ernest Becker) is a good book on the subject.

        My point was that I relish in my human existence and want to prolong that experience as much as possible.

        This is fear of death. It has many forms.

        The Denial of Death (Ernest Becker) is a good book on the subject.