Living Longer by Stretching Psychological Time

I’d like to live longer. Most people would. Collectively we invest a lot to squeeze more years from our lives: exercising, not smoking, eating healthy and taking whatever supplement cocktail is currently in fashion.

But what about making the years seem longer themselves?

Psychological time is how long time feels. Although we normally equate psychological time and actual time, glitches in our brain show this isn’t actually the case.

How Fast Does Time Fly?

In his book, Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer highlights an interesting experiment on the warping of psychological time:

“In 1962, Michael Siffre spent two months living in total isolation in a subterranean cave, without access to clock, calendar or sun. Sleeping and eating only when his body told him to, he sought to discover how the natural rhythms of human life would be affected by living ‘beyond time.’

“When his support team on the surface finally called down to him on September 14, the day his experiment was scheduled to wrap up, it was only August 20 in his journal. He thought only one month had gone by. His experience of time’s passage had compressed by a factor of two.”

Siffre’s experiment is extreme, but it highlights how our sense of time is not immutable. Moments densely packed with memories get stretched out. Routine and monotony become a blurred montage.

Smoking can cut several years off your life. But Siffre’s experiment seemed to cut time in half. From the perspective of living longer, I think it would be foolish to ignore psychological time.

Does Time Always Speed Up as You Age?

I’ve been told that time speeds up as you age. Five years as a teenager seems far longer than five years midway through life.

I see two explanations for why this happens.

The first is that, as you age, each year becomes a proportionally smaller amount of your life. The last five years of a 15 year-old’s life make up one third. By the time you’re fifty, it’s only 10%.

From this perspective, time accelerates because we judge time relative to the totality of our other experiences. I’m not convinced this hypothesis is correct, but scientists could discover some neurological basis for this time gestalt in the future.

The second, and in my opinion, more likely perspective is that time seems to accelerate because our lives become more routine. For a teenager, every year is different. For a middle-aged office worker, change is gradual.

Of course, if the second hypothesis is correct, that the acceleration of time isn’t a natural byproduct of aging, but due to life becoming increasingly stable, that suggests an alternative for stretching psychological time.

Stretching Time

If time accelerates in routine, it should slow down with novelty.

After finishing my last year here in Winnipeg, it felt as if little time had passed. One year living abroad in France, felt as if I had experienced an entire lifetime.

Living in a foreign culture and language meant every activity, no matter how otherwise banal, became an adventure. I still distinctly remember buying groceries for the first time, struggling to comprehend basic questions in French. I can hardly remember any distinct time buying groceries in Canada.

Does this mean the solution to living longer is to constantly move to different countries? I mentioned this thought to a friend, who correctly pointed out that after some time even that would become routine. Systematic change becomes habit, with time.

Almost any lifestyle or attitude would, over time, reach equilibrium. The life of an international traveller may remain novel for longer than life as an office worker, but eventually, it too would become stable and time would speed up.

Avoiding Equilibrium to Live Longer

The problem of stretching time is a lot like mastering a skill. Initially, there are no habits to guide you, so learning is intense and time slows. Eventually, habits form and you plateau.

The solution, in the case of mastering a skill, is to constantly avoid equilibrium. Always push to the edge of your incompetence, deliberately break your routines, and force big challenges on yourself.

Perhaps the way to live longer has a similar solution. Living at the edge of your experiences, avoiding equilibrium as a way of stretching out psychological time.

What would this mean, in practice? And, to what extent should you value a pleasant lifestyle over the tumultuous necessity of maximizing psychological time?

I’m not sure I have an answer to those questions. But, considering psychological time may perceptually add or subtract years from our lives, it’s definitely worth thinking through.

What are your thoughts on psychological time? Do you think it makes sense to try to deliberately extend time through new experiences? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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  • Eduardo Thomas

    Good point, i think than when we enjoy our time, we felt that we have lived more.

    When we always do the same, it feels as we haven´t lived yet, or we have not used our life.

  • Jasi

    “staying in the moment” is trendy again. move slower and the day is slower. look at more, do every thing with purpose and the moments last, memories are sharper. it’s a good post because it puts a new spin on a very old but current idea. i like your angle.

  • K

    I always thought it was the opposite of your second hypothesis: I thought time went slower as a child because I was bored (opposite of novelty). For example, I remember the summers dragging on forever when I had nothing to do but swim, play legos, ride bikes, and read books (rough life, eh?). Then, as I became a teenager, summers flew by and August always came too soon.

    However, I think your idea about investigating psychological time is very interesting! I read it as inspiration to live fuller lives. Sounds a lot like your study tips – don’t study more hours, study more focused. Don’t try to live longer years, try to live better years!

  • Janet

    or, you know, you could just avoid smoking and excessive drinking, and eat a mostly vegetarian diet. 😉 i’m fascinated with longevity ‘secrets’, and a lot of it has to do with diet and how much you eat (80% full), and a rich community/social life.

    psychological time is interesting though. I call is “cosmic time” because it’s not bound by linear thinking or linear time.

  • Stepan

    Awesome article Scott!! Those vivid, in-depth memories are really what life is made of

  • Julien

    Great post!
    Yes we should extend our “psychological time”! Have babies, keep learning a new skill, be curious & spontaneous, do crazy things, travel, read, taste new dishes, meet people randomly… There’s so much life can offer and there’s so much you can do in a day, an hour, a minute, that will fill your mind with memories and make each moment special. Even simple things that do not require money or much effort – like talking to people and making new friends. I often try to surprise and challenge myself by doing stuff I would naturally feel uncomfortable with. It works! There’s a Chinese saying that goes, “Time doesn’t wait for me”. We are in charge! Time goes by whatever we do. Let’s extend our perception of it.

  • Wendy Irene

    I think the best way to stretch out time is to pay as little attention to it as you can. Only use it as you absolutely need to. The less you pay attention to time, and the more you are conscious of right now- this very moment, the more peace, pleasure and happiness you find. Living in the future or past means paying too much attention to time (imho) 🙂 As often as I can, I try to think only about right now. Problems, fear, worries fade away when you do that, leaving more space for joy.

  • Pete Michaud

    This is a good one Scott, I love it. Live longer by living a more interesting life. How can you argue with that?

  • Scott Young

    Jasi,

    I wouldn’t say it’s the same as “staying in the moment”, although the two are certainly related concepts. Stretching psychological time is more about increasing the density of memorable events. If you look at people who suffer from the opposite of this, anterograde amnesia, you see they have the opposite problem–perpetually being stuck in the now, unable to form new memories or a past.

  • Marcy

    I do always feel like more time has gone by when I have a packed weekend or vacation. Then, after the time of being busy, all I want to do is not have anything scheduled.

  • James L.

    I am pouring 4th cup of white wine down the throat and looking at this.
    It’s probably not about the length of time, it’s about the part that’s memorable and meaningful.
    I lived in Hawaii for 2.5 years, I swear relativity exists there, the music, hula dance, the pace, all so soft and slow. A drive from downtown Honolulu, through Pali, to North Shore, one single day you’ll experience so many different faces of nature.
    But multiply that with a year, all you get is one day. Because it came so easy that I didn’t value it much and make the best out of it. I could’ve started some crafts, like writing, or took my parents out more often. I didn’t.
    So in the end, probably doing what matters weights in more than length of time, because even shortest amount of time can stretch long road of memory when it’s meaningful.

  • Daniel M. Wood

    I believe that if you live in the moment and try to have fun in your days, time does slow down. When you produce at high levels time feels like it is moving at a glacial pace. You get so much done and then you have so much time to do whatever you want with.

  • Stephan R

    If we come to accept that the best form of routine is driven by the rich impetus of changing patterns and habits, it is true that our lifes will become more memorable and hence perceived to last longer.

    The sensation that comes with new experiences allows us to look back at them with much more clarity. Rather than having a blurred image of a sequence of uneventful chores, exposing yourself to new things will have a deep impact on the perception of time.

    The more new things you perceive, the longer your life will last.

  • Chris Dam

    I totally agree with you Scott. I have often thought this myself.

  • ah

    interesting idea……i did have another related observation……but not sure…

    when a month got lot to do, the month seems longer than other months with less to do.

    the amount of activities or events happened in a period, could affect perception. when there lot of workload, human trapped to think that more time is passed.

    is there any relationship between non-routines and quantity-of-activities, that led to same perception effect ??

    or are they 2 different factors ??

  • Jaxrolo

    Live longer by making your life more interesting.

    I like the idea.

  • omar

    Scott, what do you mean by “increasing the density of memorable events”?

  • Vladimir

    I often think of this question and I tend to agree with your second hypothesis. Yet, I have noticed that there is a difference between “how time feels” and the perception of its “length”. I mean, your year in France feels like a lifetime, but didn’t it flew by really quickly (i.e. as if it was just last week that you have moved to France and you already leaving)?

  • Zeth Addington

    Right now I’m working 65h weeks at a little Café right next to the Louvre, Paris. I was making my way through another day at work when a colleague mentioned that I’d been working there a month. At first I thought he was bullshitting me; looking back, my sense of time didn’t add up to much more than a week or so!

    On the other side, I had my 1st year anniversary of living in Paris just as I was starting at my new job. My experiences of my first bohemian year here seems to stretch forever. I can hardly remember my old life in Copenhagen.

    So I can totally follow your ideas Scott. Question is though, why let your sense of memory (basically Fear of Death right), dictate how you live your life? When it’s over it’s over – no matter how many trips to France we took. I’ve felt it a couple of times; feeling like I’m racing faster and faster towards my own end. But seriously, it’s just fantasies. Really. And whenever I snap out of it, I always seem to find that somehow I’m still alive. That I still right here…

    We should still seek to live a life we believe in though.

    – Cheers
    Z

  • Scott Young

    Zeth,

    You bring up a point I didn’t include in the finished article, but was definitely on my mind when writing it.

    Psychological time, particularly if my second hypothesis is correct, is an artifact of how dense your memories are. This brings up a bunch of philosophical issues about what exactly life is, and could invalidate the entire point.

    If duration is felt based on the density of memories, then can you reasonably argue that time was stretched, or that it only appears stretched in your memory? If you couldn’t remember a really great year, is it the same as if it had never existed?

    It’s popular now to talk about “living in the present” and that the moment-to-moment current experience of our lives is what constitutes our life, downplaying the role of memory and a past. But if you take this philosophy to its logical extreme, and see patients with anterograde amnesia (those who cannot form new memories) I’m not so sure that’s the case.

    So if memory of a past is in some sense necessary to have a “life” in a meaningful way, does this support the idea of psychological time, even if it is only applied retroactively?

    Those are even tougher questions, that really hit at what it is to be alive, and also ones I’m even less confident in the answers.

  • Tim

    While the conclusion of avoiding routine for a longer perception of life seems accurate, there are other things going on as well in the cave experiment. In particular, I assume he got his journal dates from his sleep cycle. If he is off, does that mean he was getting less out of his life or that he was just that he was sleeping less often than once per twenty four hours?

    There is a short interview of Siffre by Foer here: http://www.cabinetmagazine.org

    It also says some interesting things about sleep and circadian rhythms.

    An unrelated point I found interesting in the interview was how much the Cold War spurred innovation. For all the negative aspects, it sure pushed people to do amazing things. If the closest push now is the so called war on terror, what is that giving us? Better personal data analytics? Would we be getting that anyway for commercial reasons?

    David Eagleman has done some work on time perception, the brain, and event significance that supports the conclusion of this post, and as luck would have it there is an article in The New Yorker about him right now: http://www.newyorker.com/repor….

  • Phil

    isn’t that the opposite of our catchphrase?

    “Time fly’s when you’re having fun”

    “geeze, this week is dragging”

  • Andrew

    Great article Scott. Have you seen the Ted Talks video “Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory” by any chance? From the terminology you use in the article I’m guessing you might have, but if not you should certainly check it out as it’s directly relevant to what you discuss here!

  • Life Exceptional

    I find that one of your articles takes me what seems like several hours to read but actually only 2 minutes. I guess extreme boredom is another way to stretch out your time 😉

  • Eugene

    You present the ultimatum of “a pleasant lifestyle” of predictability or equilibrium over “novelty.” Then a fundamental litmus test to whether equilibrium and novelty are diametrically opposed, or rather two sides of the same coin, is a movie we are drawn to watch again and again, countless times. Each time the movie seems fresh, as if it were occurring for the very first time, immersing our psyche in an adventure that seems timeless in its length.

    We are drawn to repeating experiences until we reach that rare epiphany, the meaning of which according to the Wikipedia, “is the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something. The term is used in either a philosophical or literal sense to signify that the claimant has ‘found the last piece of the puzzle and now sees the whole picture,’ or has new information or experience, often insignificant by itself, that illuminates a deeper or numinous foundational frame of reference.” When the epiphany occurs we are ready to move on in life’s journey.

    The universe and every facet of reality and our lives are parts of infinite fractals, which another Wikipedia article describes as “rough or fragmented geometric shape[s] that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole, a property called self-similarity.” Perhaps in that spirit, William Blake (Auguries of Innocence) is well known for these hauntingly familiar words:

    To see a world in a grain of sand,
    And a heaven in a wild flower,
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
    And eternity in an hour.

    In just an “hour” one can experience eternity, with an infinity of possibilities and amazing improbabilities within one’s grasp!

    Why does one “down” a shot of good whiskey instead of sipping it slowly, savoring each and every moment? So many experiences are best savored quickly, while so many more (like lovemaking) are based on the mood we are in. Watching a movie like Indiana Jones is a linear progression that proceeds orderly from start to finish and takes our breath away; where going to a dance club with friends is an improvised blur of emotion. Depending on the context of our experiences, they move seemingly at the speed of light, or appear to move so slowly it’s as if time is standing still.

    Life is a mystery to be enjoyed vicariously yet to plan carefully to pave the way for future experiences (which is why it’s imperative to worry today about future finances that create the stage for future experiences). Instead of “making it last” why not simply focus on savoring every moment, even if it’s focusing on how that shot of whiskey feels like going down as if time were in slow motion and the feelings are amplified a thousand fold. (I’m not advocating drunkenness or robbing your future health for instant gratification by any means!)

  • Lis

    Reading your post, this point was simple and beautiful. (After reading last comments, it has turned out to be a rocket science and i don’t want to think anymore…m not understanding)
    one leads to another. living longer without both- hardship and joy is just boring.

    I don’t think stretching psychological time makes sense because, we can’t deliberately create new-experiences.

  • Scott Young

    Eugene,

    Pleasantness and novelty certainly aren’t mutually exclusive. But I don’t believe they are identical either. One could certainly live an unpleasant, boring life. But would the maximally pleasant life be maximally novel?

    As an extreme example, many people who have tumultuous lives in their youth eventually settle down, get married and have kids. They do this because they want the pleasantness of that life approach. But if you take the point about novelty to its logical extreme, you might avoid this, in the pursuit of stretching out time.

    I put the question up there because it needs to be asked whether, to the extent a tradeoff exists, it’s better to live a pleasant and less memorable time, than to live a slightly less pleasant but more memorable time.

    Andrew,

    Yes–I was reluctant to mention it in the post, because I feel he is making the opposite point. This psychological time is based on the remembered self, since it is intricately associated with memory (at least in the example, I provided, science may show it has an experiential basis as well in the future).

    The question of whether the remembered self or experiential self is more “real” is an interesting one, and one I just started to touch on in this article.

    Tim,

    Yes–the evidence presented in this post for my hypothesis is far from conclusive. It’s just a hypothesis with a single anecdote to support it. It’s nice to see further science supporting the idea.

  • Eugene

    The times I remember most, Scott, tend to be the most pleasant, and I only regret I can count these on one hand… My dad’s wedding when he remarried; my wedding day attended by hundreds, and seeing her for what seemed like the first time (she was so beautiful); then fast-forward 29 years to my three week trip across Italy; then a year forward to my adoption of two angelic lovebirds that helped me cope when the 2008 crash lead to my losing everything and starting over; and finally two years later when against all odds I was given a home modification after getting a good paying corporate position by the skin of my teeth. The rest is like a blur. These pleasant moments in time, these seemed to last a lifetime. I realized that these few moments were more then some get who die at an early age, and in the grand scheme of William Blake’s aforementioned quote, just a tiny fragment of the amazing adventures to come.

    I sense you are too clinical in your quest to quantify time. As I said, perhaps as hyperbole of the extreme (since I don’t drink except very sparingly), even a shot of whiskey downed in seconds can seem to last a lifetime if you learn to slow time down and savor every nanosecond.

    Data: She [the Borg Queen] brought me closer to humanity than I ever thought possible. And for a time, I was tempted by her offer.
    Picard: How long a time?
    Data: Zero point six-eight seconds, sir… For an android, that is nearly an eternity.
    (Star Trek: First Contact)

  • Scott Young

    Eugene,

    Certainly–but it’s exploring distinctions that helps us learn about ourselves and life. That’s the very aim of this blog. To think clearly about hard ideas is to take a moment to stand on mountains and breathe the rarefied air that we normally miss, standing in the murky fog of our existence.

    -Scott

  • Adam Isom

    Regarding your first comment, Scott: I have also thought your second hypothesis is correct. I think your article implicitly assumes that the experience or perception of time is more meaningful, more fundamental, than physical time, so I guess your questions are rhetorical. But it does make me wonder: if we seek a great experience of life, are we morally obligated to keep a journal, to put it simply?

    This reminds me of a more curious question of duty that has occurred to me: are we morally obligated to have as many children as possible, to put it simply? The reasoning is (1) the fact that life is worthwhile and often wonderful, at least in America and if you’re a good parent, and (2) the acknowledgement that depriving life, whether unborn or existing, may be similarly evil. We – at least I – often consider how unlikely the event of our birth was, dependent on a huge chain of extreme unlikelihoods. It has made me shiver to consider that a sibling may not have been born, but then I wonder about my potential siblings, the unborn, like my mother’s first miscarriage. And then I wonder if it’s merely a lack of imagination that makes us value real siblings over unborn siblings. Do you have an opinion on this?

    I don’t mean to clutter your comments, but your last comment on the whole aim of your blog–beautifully poetic–reminds me of an intro philosophy book I began devouring recently. It’s The Big Questions, by Solomon, a prominent philosopher. The reason why I love it is because he emphasizes how philosophy is about doing, how philosophy can be alive if you let it.
    Regarding both your blog and this book, a notion has been rattling in my brain for awhile: the notion that the best philosophy and the best personal development are one and the same.

  • Scott Young

    Adam,

    I think moral questions are much more difficult than simply ones of maximizing individual well-being. It involves assessing what the purpose of life is and the moral basis for evaluating it. Interesting for discussion, but considerably more difficult to reach reasonable conclusions.

    But if you go one level deeper and ask what’s the best way to live, from an individual perspective, I think you can make progress on these smaller issues–combining philosophy and science to try to answer those questions.

    -Scott

  • Adam Isom

    Thank you for responding Scott, I appreciate it, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I believe comment-conversations greatly enhance blogs.
    Comparing this with recent posts, I can see this essay is especially thought-provoking as it already has 34 comments now.

  • Garth

    The first post of your site that I have read and already I am hooked!
    Interesting perspectives on how the nature our life experiences might determine our temporal recognitions of them.

    I am convinced by your second theory, that changes in routine somehow stretches time. There could also be a link to biological factors such as the amount of adrenaline inside us: when confronting an entirely new situation, that adrenaline rush makes our responses much faster; with a faster mental processing speed, time will indeed seem to be stretched to accommodate more actions. In a more comfortable, stable lifestyle, we learn to deal with multiple issues in an almost instinctive manner, processing far less of our actions and therefore it comes as a shock that the hours have ticked away while we fully recognise/appreciate far fewer of our actions.

  • Peter

    Excellent post. A countervailing element, however, is that research has demonstrated that having a “routine” leads to generally longer lifetimes. This is because stress is minimized, which becomes increasingly important as we get older. The death of widowers within months of the passing of their spouses has been attributed in large part to the increased stress of having to take care of duties which the spouse used to handle. It would seem there is a trade-off to be made between physical and psychological longevity!

  • Josh Taylor

    Hey Scott,

    This article reminded me of a documentary I saw (it might actually have been a segment on Daily Planet) that described a time-perception test scientists performed on rats. Scientists trained rats to press a button after a short, pre-determined time interval. If the rats pressed the button at the right time, they received a treat, at the wrong time, and they were given a slight electric shock. They then gave some of the rats sugar intravenously. The thought being that the sugar would make them hyper and cause their biological sense of time to speed up. Sure enough, the rats who had been given sugar almost always pressed the button a little too early regardless of the amount of times they were shocked. This, along with your article, leaves me with many questions. 1) Is our perception of time easy to alter? Or difficult? 2) Would this have any affect on how long we lived? and 3) Could we harness the ability of foods to affect our perception of time to control time in some minute, yet noticeable way?

  • Scott Young

    Peter,

    Do you have any references to support the idea of routine extending longevity? I’d be interested to read them. My sense was the widows passed away soon after due to the stress of grief, not necessarily an abrupt change in routine.

    -Scott

  • Micha

    Scott, thanks for the article. And thanks again for your appearance and help in our second webinar at Leo’s/Katie’s/Barrie’s habit course.

    I’ve just one question regarding your article: When routine makes time fly by even faster, is creating habits bad because we are actually creating more routine with each habit?

    Greetings from Cologne, Germany.
    Micha

  • Scott Young

    Micha,

    Good question–I’ve thought about that one myself.

    My feeling is that good habits can enable variety as well–if you wake up early and go running, you may have more time and energy to take on new classes or new adventures, as an example. Giving up television may give you more time to do more interesting things.

    That said, living a strictly regimented life without flexibility or spontaneity is always a threat. We have to invest in breaking our habits as much as we do in building them.

    -Scott

  • Micha

    So it’s always that balance-thing and just like Paracelsus said: “Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.”

    By the way: I found an interesting article with some studies you might be interested in concerning the topic of your post: http://bit.ly/lICRku

    Micha

  • Jake

    As we age and things are more familiar our sense of time speeds up. It is new associations that our brains make which keeps time seemingly move slower. The key to keeping the perception of time moving at a slower rate is to always be in situations that allow for new connections and learning opportunities. The second hypothesis in this article I feel is exactly what I am stating just in a round about way. Keep yourself open to experiencing new things and your life will feel much longer. Live in your small town with the same people and closed minds all your life and you will feel dead soon I promise (long before your dead even).

  • Scott Young

    Micha, I’m going to steal that quote–I love it!
    -Scott

  • Louche

    I was just thinking about this, actually. When I stayed in a Buddhist monastery for six days, I told the other lay people that I felt that a thousand lifetimes had passed during those six days. The experience was just that rich.

    But the past two weeks of my life? They seem to have flown by for the most part. Coming up I have just 2-3 weeks off of school. I want to make the most of them and stretch time. Make them seem like an eternity. I want to feel like I’ve gotten every bit of relaxation out of them as possible.

  • vidya

    i am just wondering how to design my life with evrything balanced

  • Geraldine Hisler

    Fear distorts reality.

  • Rusty Marnell

    I really enjoyed this article.
    I’ve found out myself that life is more invigorating if you spend your days doing things out of a routine. A crazy gathering of friends one night, a makeshift street hockey tournament the next, and a midnight race around the neighborhood makes life infinitely more satisfying and full than getting off work and watching the same TV show day after day.
    The more we do, the more we live.
    The essence of life is to experience and grow with each thing we face.

  • Aaron

    Scott, I love this stuff! Thank you for putting a term to it.

    The relative aspect of time may be part of of our retrospective assessment of time, but I agree with you that it is more likely tied to the frequency and intensity of memories. Time seems to accelerate with age because our memories tend to degrade with age, though not having memorable experiences also plays a part, I suspect.

  • bishal rai

    I find that the article does speak about the concept of boredom and how to overcome it in a novel way. I have experienced it but it is deftly articulated here in this article. I understand that variety does add to the variety of our memories and subsequently enriches our life. The keyword here I believe would be balance.

  • sameer

    There is an interesting book on the topic which provides few theories on the ‘why’?

    Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older: How Memory Shapes our Past

    http://www.amazon.com/Why-Life

  • Archiffa

    Wow. I’ve been ruminating about the same things myself as well. Your article showed me some things I never thought about and allowed me to view it from a number of different perspectives.

    “As you age, each year becomes a proportionally smaller amount of your life” – never thought of it this way! Interesting! Although I agree with you: it doesn’t seem likely to me that this is what causes your personal perception of time to speed up. Otherwise our perception of time wouldn’t probably slow back down when we travel, right? So I also think the problem is mostly in the routine / automated mode in which we function most part of a regular everyday life.

    “Does this mean the solution to living longer is to constantly move to different countries? I mentioned this thought to a friend, who correctly pointed out that after some time even that would become routine. Systematic change becomes habit, with time.”
    It’s interesting to think about. I’m not convinced by your friend’s words that travelling/moving to new countries will necessarily become a routine if you do it all the time. I think that it needs to be tested and it might depend on the things that you actually do in these countries.
    And doesn’t it contradict a little with what you’re saying later, too? As a way of speeding up time you propose to live on the edge, always pushing yourself from known/familiar. If it was a case with travelling becoming routine, wouldn’t that ‘on the edge’ way of living become familiar too, in time, resulting in your time speeding back up?
    I personally don’t think it will, in both cases.
    I’m not convinced that travelling will necessarily become a routine: if you don’t do the same things you did in one country in all others, or just stay in the hotel all the time, then it seems to me that travelling itself will bring more novelty in your life just because there are new people and places around. Testing this would be interesting. That’s just my thoughts, I realize that they are also unproven and untested, so I can be wrong.

    I would really like to know what kind of results you’re having if you’re going to experiment with slowing down your personal time.

    My 2 cents:
    In addition to time slowing down during travelling, I experienced it when I did the following: I attempted to change my mood throughout a day to a more positive one, or just monitored it constantly. So I actually made small records about the way I felt, every 5 minutes or even every minute some days (asked myself what I felt and wrote down a number from 1 to 10 corresponding to my emotional state in a notebook). It is a tricksy thing to do and it is somewhat uncomfortable to always carry a notebook with you or take out your phone and write something down in it every minute or five. But I’ve noticed how much monitoring my mood and systematic attempts to change my emotional state slowed my perception of time, even though I was actually in the middle of a regular routine day and nothing else changed.

    From this I concluded that it’s not only ‘new’ things that slow down your perception of time. It seems that it is things to which you pay attention, events that yank you out of the routine mode. The amount of such events in a period of time.

    That leads to fascinating parallels with physics: in mechanics we have speed, space and time. In human perception of time, space is roughly equivalent to events that capture your attention. The more events occur in a period of time, the faster is your mental ‘speed’. Your perception of time depends on that speed, so it’s relative. If you ‘speed up’ your life by experiencing more events, your time goes slower than that of other people or yourself when you’re not in the “acceleration mode”. A perceptional theory of relativity 🙂 and an interesting notion to ponder on.

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