When you’re a kid, time seems limitless. Every day passes with syrupy slowness, and years stretch out like taffy. But as you get older, your perception of time speeds up. By your 30s, each year rushes by. In fact, one famous theory about humans’ perception of time suggests that by age seven, half your perceived life is over.
Small wonder, then, that many water cooler conversations start with, “How is it [insert current month here] already?” If you catch yourself repeating that phrase every 30 days, read on. It’s time to slow down and appreciate the present.
1. Try something new and exciting.
One reason that time seems so limitless for kids is that almost every experience is new and exciting, and newness helps fix an experience in your memories. As you get older, routine takes over and new experiences are generally in shorter supply. When you do the same things every day (for example, eating oatmeal for every breakfast), your brain becomes lazy; days begin to blur together.
The good news: whether you’re 20 or 50 years old, research shows that trying something new wakes up the brain. You could plan a day trip to somewhere outside your city. Or try cooking with a new ingredient. Or spice up your relationship by changing up date night. Look for opportunities throughout the day to say “yes” to new experiences, big and small.
2. Meditate for 5 minutes every day.
Making a special effort to notice more—in other words, practice mindfulness—can help slow your perception of time. Meditation is one of the easiest ways to do this. If you’ve had trouble meditating in the past, start with just five minutes a day. As a bonus, meditation may also help you sleep better, stress less and have more self-compassion.
3. Stress less about your to-do list.
In general, studies show that time seems to pass more quickly when we feel stressed about having too much to do. You’ve probably experienced moments at work or at home when it seems like your to-do list is endless and there’s not enough time in the day to check off everything—that’s what researchers have called “time pressure.” Time pressure doesn’t just make days fly by: it’s been linked with higher rates of depression in working women in particular.
To alleviate time pressure, try to work smarter. Avoid multitasking, which can fragment your focus and reduce overall productivity.
4. Take technology breaks.
New research has shown that our growing use of technology has made us more efficient at processing information: the more we use computers, the more our minds appear to mimic them. The downside? Constantly being connected to our devices also appears to speed up our perception of time.
Take some time away from your iPhone and laptop every week. How will you fill that time? We’ve got a few suggestions, like trying something new and exciting, or meditating …