Eli5 why does time “fly” in times of enjoyment but seem to drag on when we are uninterested in what we are doing or what is happening?



I’ve been pondering this one for a while and really can’t figure it out.

In: Physics

Because when you’re having fun, you’re distracted. Your brain is engaged by something. In terms of time, it thinks about multiple things, not just what’s happening right now but what will happen in 5 minutes or an hour. That means you’re not fixating on the present.

When you’re bored and have nothing to occupy you, your brain just fixates on the next thing that will happen. So if you’re in class and are waiting for the bell to ring, that’s all you can think of.

It’s actually not *just* when you’re having fun. The same thing will happen any time your brain is engaged in something.

This is a great question, and one that I remember asking myself when I was in elementary school. I noticed that, though P.E. and Social Studies were both 45 minute sessions, P.E. always felt like 5 minutes whereas Social Studies always felt like 2 hours.

I think it has more to do with our perception of time during various activities. For instance, when I was in P.E., I never actually looked at the clock. In fact, I never actually thought about how long something was taking – instead, I was always focused on the sport. The amount of times I thought about “how long has it been” or “how much time is left” was very little, if not none.

Conversely, during Social Studies, I was always bored. Instead of my mind being engaged, I would always look at the clock and check to see how much time has elapsed. Of course, the more uninterested you are, the more frequently you’ll check the clock. The more frequently you check the clock, the more you’ll notice incremental changes in time.


I think an inverse relationship exists between how engaged your brain is, and how frequently you think about time. The more engaged your brain is, the less you actually wonder how much time has elapsed and thus, you feel as though time has “flown”. On the opposite hand, if you were to sit and stare at a wall, you’ll constantly be thinking about how much time has elapsed and every hour, minute and second is noticed, making it “appear” as though time is moving slower.

Unsure of your age.. but if you’re under 35……

Take pictures. Enjoy everything you can. Youll find time flies faster and faster the older you get.
You wait forever to get a driver’s license. Then, seems like forever to be 18. Then a super long time to be 21. Then all of a sudden you are 25, insurance cost drops, so youre kinda ok w that. Then 30. As soon as youre used to having a great time in your 30s (my favorite), 40 starts creeping. You for get that and fuck your 45. Then 50. The whole time you feel like youre the same dude waiting for your drivers license at 15, 11mos old but fuck, it hurts to run. When did that happen? Why do old looking women stare at me? Oh yeah, im their age. No one feels like that though. You will be 60 and think as you do now. Never sleep in, enjoy everything. It goes fast.

Enjoy everything. Drop the people in your life that give you friction. Seriously if someone doesn’t provide you with anything beneficial, drop them, there are sooooo many great people out there. Life goes alot faster than you think. Bam! Youre old.

When you’re busy doing all these things you enjoy, you’re simply too busy to notice the passing of time. So it feels like it’s gone in an instant.

But when you have nothing to do, the fact that time passes a lot more slowly than you want it to becomes extremely apparent to you.