When my son started kindergarten, my mum dropped a real bombshell on me: “Now that he’s in school full time,” she said, “the years are really going to fly by.” Thanks to her, I’ve noticed how each year since has gone by faster and faster, a fact that basically every adult I know can confirm.
“How can it be winter already??” we say, followed five or six minutes later by, “Man, this winter flew by!”
It’s a phenomenon that seems to get worse as we get older; unfortunately for one sad Reddit user, u/Ed_Wretch, time is speeding up a little too early in life:
I’m still relatively young, early 20s, but I’ve noticed that the years have started to pass by me with increasingly alarming speeds.
Is there anything I can do to slow things down? It’s giving me a fuckin existential crisis.
Other users came in with helpful suggestions, like u/Ricky_RZ, who suggests, “Go to a history lecture, then time is dead slow.”
OK, that might be helpful for an afternoon, but I think Ed_Wretch was looking for a more long-term solution. To make time slow down, many Redditors said, try seeking out new experiences:
“Shaking things up and doing something different gives you more memories, which make the years seem longer when you look back on them.” (u/rogueqd)
“The reason why it feels so fast is because when you’re young you have more new experiences and your mind takes more time to save and remember them. Now that you’re older there aren’t as many new things in your life.” (u/boepoepie)
“The more sensory diverse experiences you have, the slower time will seem. Novel experiences are probably what have the biggest effect. So do a lot of diverse and new things as much as you can.” (u/vb_nm)
“If you want life to be worth remembering then you have to do things worth remembering. This does NOT mean constant party and vacations and time with family. Those will quickly bleed into each other as well. It means constant self challenge and growth. Growth necessarily involves de facto new experience (as repetition for the sake of growth involves seeing the same thing with new eyes). Learn a sport. Learn maths and physics. Take on hard projects in life. Live in new places.” (u/OphioukhosUnbound)
They’re right. Psychologist Claudia Hammond has told Scientific American that as we age, our lives become more routine. We experience fewer unfamiliar moments than we did in our early years, which makes the memories of our early years overrepresented in our memory.
Our brain encodes new experiences, but not familiar ones, into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period. In other words, the more new memories we build on a weekend getaway, the longer that trip will seem in hindsight.
This phenomenon, which Hammond has dubbed the holiday paradox, seems to present one of the best clues as to why, in retrospect, time seems to pass more quickly the older we get.
So go pick up that ukulele you’ve always wanted to learn how to play, hike your first mountain, try the diving board the next time you take your kids to the pool. It’ll slow your summer down a bit.