Living life fast
How people perceive time differntly
As a little kid, a single day can last forever. Teenagers can spend a whole life during their summer break. And when somebody is just about to leave their 20s, they can’t believe that they have already turned 40. From there on, people recall time only moving faster and faster. Marijuana is being said to slow time down, while alcohol most likely increases somebodies perception of it. With all the smartphones, tablets and watches we surround ourselves with, the continuous ticking of time is being displayed everywhere we go — giving us the feeling of losing and wasting it. Why then do we experience time differently from one another, and how can we influence the way we perceive it?
In 1962, a French speleologist named Michel Siffre spent two months in a cave, having an absolute absence of any outside influences. While he lost total control of the entire time he stayed in the cave, his average sleep-wake cycle of 24 hours remained the same. This critical key insight would later show that humans are indeed able to body track time without outside factors; That our inside ticking ancient circadian “master clocks” would help proceed a periodic rhythm, helping us master everyday tasks flawlessly. Recognizing time passing on a larger, continual scale, however, is something completely different.
Awareness of past time is one of our very basic instincts. In order to evolve, the brains’ primary function is to use its past records to imagine and learn for the future. Days, Months and Years all fade into each other. But that doesn’t matter. To evolve is why we remember.
According to a theoretical theory by scientists such as APS Fellow Warren H. Meck at Duke University, a biological stopwatch in the brain slows and accelerates in line with attention and arousal. “Boring” counting of sheep and numbers makes time feel like passing slower. In contrast, the greatest moments are over in what only feels like an instance. This theory supports the observation that “time flies when you’re having fun”. However, this might not automatically be a bad thing.
The fact that the perception of time is a sense which is easily bendable can also be seen as a gift. It lets us speed it up or slow it down, depending on how we use it. The more memories we capture that we think are worth saving, the faster the perception of time feels at any given moment. This effect makes space for new satisfying adventures while creating metaphorical landmarks for the previously experienced ones.
When people think about their childhood, they remember a single day as moving pretty quickly. But with the available days of childhood advancing, it gets described as a feeling of a lifetime. Because only kids notice so many exciting and worth-saving details, creating the amount of those landmarks.
Here a little recap:
The greater the satisfaction we gain from our actions, the bigger the momentary perception of time flying by. Therefore, time flying by seems inevitable when creating landmarks, but at the same time are the best way to live a long and fulfilling life in reflection.
Living fast, a metaphor based on being spontaneous to the point of never thinking anything through to the end before doing it totally does seem reckless. But it also explains the idea of why a perfect, satisfying moment is inevitably fast perceiving and flying by.
If life is being lived spontaneous, adventurous, happy, and a little bit crazy, chances are it will also look like a lifetime in retrospect.