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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 06-Jan-12


Friday 06-January-12

The days are long but the years are short

As 2011 closes and 2012 swings into action it is a traditional time for reflection. In 2012 my wife and I will pass the sixty mark. Just like that. I don't feel old and, touch wood, we're reasonably healthy. It helps, I think, that my wife is vegetarian and we eat quite healthily. We also have a couple of energetic dogs who like nothing more than a run in the woods for an hour or two (except perhaps food).

I've also had a recent mooch with old college friends about the passing years. As you get older, your future gets shorter and your past longer, so there's more to talk about looking back than looking forward. You also get to feel the truth of the saying, 'the days are long but the years are short'. Whilst each day seems the same length, time seems to accelerate.

The perception of time is an interesting aspect of neuroscience and cognitive psychology. There are various theories about how we perceive time, including the that we have a 'ticking clock' chronometer and that we perceive time as a sequence of changes rather than a smooth flow. This makes sense for the experience of time flying when you are having fun and dragging by when you are bored. In a bored state you check the time frequently and effectively chop up your experience more, while when you are having fun you get into a state of 'flow' where time, for you and for a while, is a single, missable chunk.

Children perceive time as going more slowly. Remember those endless Summer holidays? A reason for this is that they are having more new experiences and so have to chop up time into smaller increments to process it. It has been said that in terms of perception of passing time, you have already lived half your life by the time you are twenty. After that it turns faster and faster into a muddy flow.

This idea of breaking time up and the child's experience of new things gives a clue on how to lead a slower, longer and more fulfilling life. If you can keep experiencing new things, even in the moments of a normal day, then you will effectively live 'more'. To do this requires a constant stream of attention to finer detail of the things around you, an insatiable curiosity and an openly creative mode of thinking that considers new possibilities and develops deeper understanding on an ongoing basis.

So there's my new year's resolution. Open attention and creative understanding. I think I'm looking forward to 2012.

Your comments

I agree with you. Time flies by that we barely notice it. Glad to know that you're both having a healthy living. Keep it up!

-- Maria E

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