Why does time seem to go so much faster as an adult? When we were kids, everything seemed to go on forever.


Why does time seem to go so much faster as an adult? When we were kids, everything seemed to go on forever.

In: 4

When you’re young, a year feels like a big chunk of our life because it’s a bigger percentage of our total time alive. For a 5-year-old, a year is 20% of their entire life. But you get older, a year becomes a smaller fraction of your overall existence.

A working theory is that New experiences (Novelty) make much more distinct associations with specific events, time periods etc. AS you get older, you (generally) experience far fewer novel stimuli, and memories of engaging in a non-novel stimuli are difficult to tell apart from the hordes that came before.

Novel experiences are thus like highlights that occur in the timeline of your life, allowing you to recall back accurately to them and remembered associated memories and emotions, whereas days that feel the same (due to a lack of novelty) are like a blur of indistinguishable events that make up the bulk of your timeline (they are literally unmemorable). The boring nature of such days makes it difficult for your brain to attach a sense of time progression to them.

But you can easily think back like “*I played hockey from 3rd grade to 12th grade*, and *”I learned physics from 10th grade to 12th grade*”. It’s much harder to assign happenings to mundane adult years. From 2012-2016 I did pretty much the same thing I did from 2018-2019. But then the pandemic happened (“Highlight” – novel experience) and I remember much more about that year because it was so strange.

TL;DR as you live longer, you experience less novelty. The days that lack novelty all begin to blur together giving you the impression of more/less time passing depending on how memorable they were on the basis of novelty.

I noticed this effect strongly in my teens and late childhood when I compared time passage to what I remembered it was like when I was 6 or 9. Especially when I started working my first job at 19, I was astonished by how fast it felt like time was passing. However, for me at least, time seems to pass at the same rate now (age 39) as it did when I was just out of college (say, age 23.)

I’m sympathetic to the idea that this shortening of time has to do partly with the fact that each day makes up a smaller and smaller percentage of the time we’ve existed as we get older. (At least for the day-to-day and week-to-week scales.. I think something else must be going on to account for the difference in how long it feels like each minute takes to pass, comparing my adult experience to what it was like when I was younger. Especially before I was 6 or so, every minute felt much longer! I think it has to do with our consciousness developing as we age so that it relates much more abstractly to moment-to-moment sensory experience. Taking psilocybin seems to forcibly remove that abstraction and force the consciousness back down to the immediate sense experience – and it does make time pass more slowly in the way I remember from when I was really young.)

Perhaps the fact that the slowing of the passage of time has stopped for me has to do with the fading of detailed, consecutive memory from earlier years – although I’ve been alive for longer, the amount of memory I have from earlier years feels about the same now as it did in my twenties, so each day *feels* like it’s the same percent of my lived experience.

Once you get a house, wife and kids there is always something to do when you have free time. Work usually gets busier with more responsibilty.

When you are young free time is literal, you generally don’t have much planned, you can meet your friends just to chill. No drs appointments, house renovations, errands, kids plays.

My theory anyway.

Because your work and have more responsibilities that take up your free time. The free time you do have, you probably do the same boring shit every day. Your brain is designed to compress information, so the stuff that is the same everyday, it actively forgets about it.

To make time go slower, you need to do different stuff from the norm. When you are a kid, everything is new and exciting. Go out and do new experiences.