Living in a time warp
A colleague asked about my Memorial Day weekend and I responded by saying it lasted about 20 minutes. Later I realized that with the beginning of June, the year is nearly halfway over and I’ve not completed half of my list of “to do’s” 2016. Is it just me or is time speeding up? Could it be that we are living in a “time warp?”
Claudia Hammond thinks we are. In fact, she explores the mystery of our perception of time in her book, Time Warped. Using the latest research from the fields of psychology, neuroscience and biology, Hammond endeavors to answer the following questions:
“Why does life seem to speed up as we get older? Why does the clock in your head move at a different speed from the one on the wall? Why is it almost impossible to go a whole day without checking your watch? Is it possible to retrain our brains and improve our relationship with it?”
An example of one of these questions about time-warping is what Hammond calls the Holiday Paradox: “the contradictory feeling that a good holiday whizzes by, yet feels long when you look back.” Often, the Holiday Paradox has at its core the quality and concentration of new experiences, especially in contrast to our daily routines.
During my work week, time seems “normal” – a relative term to be sure – and generally there is a rhythm. But when on vacation, or even over the weekend, there are new sights, sounds and experiences that create a warped perception of time because it lacks rhythm.
Another example of time changing, and in fact slowing down, happens when we are gripped by a mortal fear. Hammond illustrates this point by citing a study that asks people who are terrified of spiders to look at spiders for at least 45 seconds. These arachnophobic people, in every case, overestimated how long they viewed the spiders, which was shorter than 45 seconds, but they felt that it was longer.
Inversely, as we grow older or “more seasoned,” time changes again and seems to speed up. There are many theories as to why we feel this way. Perhaps it’s that the tempo of life in general has accelerated or perhaps we view life through our age lens. Hammond says, “It is as though time has been compressed and – as if looking through a telescope – things seem closer than they are. The opposite is called backward or reverse telescoping – also known as time expansion…. “
Time Warped certainly increased my understanding of how our internal clocks dictate our lives and productivity. But perhaps more importantly, time has an impact on memory and it is memory that creates and shapes our experiences of time.
However, the question for me still remains. How can I make my weekends and vacation days last longer?
Suzanne T. Allen