31 Days

Day 9

You Can Slow Down Time


“Where does the time go?” We've all asked this at one time or another and it only gets more common the older you get. Remember how long holiday breaks or summer vacation felt like when we were kids? Now, we leave the office on a Friday evening only to be jolted into the realization that it's now Sunday night and we barely recall anything from the weekend. Entire years seem to speed by so fast nowadays, right?


This perception of time moving at a leisurely pace in childhood, and then quickening as we become adults, is a common experience, according to neuroscientists. It's due to a few factors, says Dr. Santosh Kesari, a board-certified neurologist and director of Neuro-oncology at Pacific Neuroscience Institute.

First of all, when we're children, a year of life amounts to much more time of existence, percentage-wise. "For a 10-year-old, one year is 10 percent of their lives," says Kesari. "For a 60-year-old, one year is less than two percent of their lives." But more importantly, we're constantly being introduced to new things and ideas when we're young that leave lasting impressions on our memories. "We gauge time by memorable events and fewer new things occur as we age to remember," he says. "And this makes it seem like childhood lasted longer."

Which means by paying attention, staying curious and actively noticing new things, we can slow down our perception of time. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist who studies time perception, was profiled in The New Yorker and called time "a rubbery thing" that changes based on mental engagement.

"Time stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, 'Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,' it shrinks up," he explained. "The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass." Here are three ways to make your life richer and more memorable, thus allowing your time to expand.

Embrace New Experiences

Routines are necessary in life but are the enemy when it comes to extending time. As we touched on previously, the lack of new experiences is what makes time appear to speed up, so introducing novelty into your life is the key to slowing down your perception of time. By trying new things—accepting invitations and challenges or learning a new skill or hobby—this will form "accessible memory anchors," as a neurologist might put it. It's as simple as switching up your coffee order or getting a few coworkers to try a new place for lunch or afterwork drinks.

Be More Mindful

In the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about mindfulness. But it's often in the context of meditation. In terms of slowing down time, you don't necessarily need to start each day meditating. Instead, you'll want to become more mindful in everyday life. Meaning you'll want to focus all your attention and energy to what you're doing, seeing and experiencing right now. Instead of multi-tasking and doing three things at once, try to be fully engrossed in what's right in front of you. A study by Harvard Medical School found that those in an eight-week mindfulness-based program experienced changes in the concentration of gray matter areas in the brain responsible for learning, memory and emotion regulation.

Keep Track of Progress

We've extolled the virtues of journaling before. But it definitely comes in handy to help you slow time by taking time to reflect on your day, your thoughts and your personal progress. It provides the context to make life events relevant, and more importantly, memorable. That context is key. A study by the Wharton School found that we underestimate the passage of time—especially when there aren't related memories to build upon knowledge. It illustrated why you can feel regretful when another birthday rolls around too quickly. Journaling and tracking your progress will ensure you don't feel unaccomplished. The positive byproduct is that accountability will also serve as motivation to do more.


The average life expectancy in the United States is 78.6 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.