How to Make Time Pass More Slowly

· January 16, 2017

When you look into the eyes of someone you love, one second before putting your lips on theirs, time freezes. It feels like everything is slower, like you can dream and never wake up, and later on when you remember this moment, it will have felt so fleeting.

However, on a day when you hear some bad news, like someone passing away, the seconds seem to lengthen to an eternity, and time passes thick and slow before your eyes.

The perception of time

There’s chronological time, and then there’s subjective time, which is what you perceive according to what each moment conveys to you. Subjective time suggests that we have a notion of the past, present, and future, and we use it to understand the duration of events and situate them within a certain period.

“Don’t sleep to rest, sleep to dream, because dreams are to be fulfilled.”

-Walt Disney-

One’s sensitivity to time can also influence the performance of mental tasks like thinking of the solution to a problem, making decisions, or planning the future. Psychologist John Weardon argues that the perception of time is related to memory and vision. 

half of a woman's face

If you subjectively feel like time is passing slowly, you’ll notice more things and remember them better. 

In 1920, psychologist Hudson Hoagland observed a relationship between the perception of time and body temperature. Once, when Hoagland’s wife was sick with a fever, he went out for a minute and his wife felt like he took forever to return. So Hoagland had her count to 60 every day, and she realized that the higher the fever, the faster she counted. In other words, when her temperature rose, her internal clock went faster.

New experiences activate neurons

Neuroscientist David M. Eagleman specializes in the study of phenomena related to the human brain’s perception of time. He did a few MRIs and concluded that when an experience is new or surprising, neuronal activity related to registering the experience increases.

“One day you’ll wake up and you’ll discover that you don’t have any more time to do what you’ve dreamed. The time is now. Take action.”

-Paulo Coelho-

This phenomenon occurs because you pay more attention to new events and save more details in your memory, which is more dense with new experiences. When you remember a new experience, you think it lasted a lot longer.

Stop time so you can dream

You can’t stop time, but you can take full advantage of every second, be aware of each instant, and feel alive. Everything that happens around you, good or bad, teaches you something, and if you stop for a moment you can learn and remember the lesson.

Seconds, hours, days, weeks, months, and years pass relentlessly, and you can’t stop them. What you can do is help your brain perceive time passing more slowly and allow yourself to dream. Here are some ways to achieve this:

woman in canoe

  • Never stop learning. Having the curiosity of a child, exploring the world, asking questions, and reading will allow you to activate your brain and your memory, and you’ll feel like time is passing more slowly.
  • Discover new places. Visiting new places, breaking the routine, traveling, and getting to know the world will open your mind and put your brain to work. Your brain will store all the information from the trip and perceive it as passing more slowly.
  • Get to know new people. We always move in the same social circles and create routines out of them. Friends, family, acquaintances, and coworkers tend to stay the same. Get out there and talk to new people, get to know them, and let them get to know you.
  • Follow your heart and your intuition. We often stop and think too much about the decisions we’re making, and we don’t realize that the more options we have, the more confused we can feel. Follow your heart and your intuition, learn to be spontaneous, dream, and enjoy every moment.
  • You can dream a lifetime in one minute, and you can extend this minute into thousands of moments. It’s possible to remember an instant, to keep it in your memory and remember how it smelled, how fast your heart beat, and who was with you.

“Being with you or not being with you, that is how I measure my time.”

-Jorge Luis Borges-

Sometimes, Forever Lasts Only a Second