She added that the perception of time is also influenced by memory and how much you’ve experienced. For an 8-year-old, a week is a big portion of their life. For an 80-year-old, a week is a much smaller portion of their life, which contributes to the feeling that it went by quickly.
A day in the life of a retired 80-year-old may feel like it’s going by more slowly than that of an 8-year-old who is busy at school. However, when both people look back on a month or a year, that period of time will seem like it went by faster to the older person.
This is for a number of reasons. For the 80-year-old, their life probably doesn’t look too different than it did when they were 78 or 79, “so, in that case, they’re looking back on fewer events,” Lustig said. “When you’re looking back, the less rich your representation is, the more it’s going to seem like the time went by quickly.”
The many experiences young children have in a day (such as learning new things at school, going to ballet class or visiting a new friend’s house) contribute to the notion that time is more plentiful and more activities can fit into that time. Therefore, when looking back, time may feel slower.
This can apply to adults, too. When we look back on a time period that was filled with lots of new experiences, “we see [a] large expense of events and memories, and that makes it seem like time stretches out … and it feels very long,” Lustig said. If you’re not introducing new patterns into your life, time can feel like it’s going by much quicker overall.
How we process what we see can also influence how we view time, Bejan said. Our brains are trained to receive many images when we are infants. Because we’re absorbing so many new images as kids, it may feel like months and years are longer.
This could mean picking up a childhood hobby (like dancing or violin), taking an overnight trip to a city you’ve never visited or signing up for a cooking class. Learning new things is another good way to make your time feel longer when you look back on your life, he said.
Lustig noted that being fully engaged and “in the moment” can make those moments seem to last longer. In fact, laboratory studies show that mindfulness exercises can stretch our perception of time, she said. So don’t try to focus on multiple tasks at once. Instead, just focus on the experience at hand.
This content was originally published here.