Why Time Speeds Up As You Age

In his 1890 book, ‘The Principles of Psychology’, philosopher and psychologist William James wrote that ‘the same space of time seems shorter as we grow older’.

Have you ever felt that? That time seems to speed up as you age?

Months seem to go by in a matter of what feels like a few weeks. As children, the last few days before Christmas or a birthday drag on, yet as adults, come November, we’re counting the weeks to Christmas and can’t believe it’s come around again so fast.

There’s two reasons why we have this sense of time speeding up.

The first is that the brain encodes novel experiences much more richly that it does everyday, ordinary experiences. It’s like novelty is stored as HD, but for experiences that we’ve had several times, the brain knows what they are so doesn’t need to expend as much energy storing them. Unless there’s something different about them, the brain just encodes a faint trace.

This is why you can easily recall the details of any new experience, but forget what you had for lunch last Wednesday.

As children, everything is new and so all experiences are richly encoded in the brain. With so much information and data being processed, children have the sense that time passes very slowly. I remember the seemingly infinitely long drive to the seaside when I was a child. My sisters and I were soooo bored, constantly asking Mum and Dad when we’ll get there. It took sooooo long. It was only as an adult that I learned it only took 45 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. I have since looked again and again at the map, punched the location into my iPhone, and it always comes up the same – 45 minutes. Incredble!

For adults, with much less data processing in the brain, we have the sense of time moving quickly.

Except, of course, for those intense experiences we occasionally have, which are new or have a newness to them, like a first date with someone you really like. It’s the newness of it that extends the experience and ensures that the brain lays down strong memories. But you may not remember many details of the tenth date. It will pass much more quickly for you, unless of course you do something different.

And herein lies the key to slowing time down. Do something different!

Try a new recipe. Either cook something you’ve never cooked before or eat a meal you’ve not tried before. Take a different route to work. Study. Learn something new. Learn a new language, or a new dance, but just do something different. Break out of your everyday patterns.

Novelty also causes neurogenesis in the brain, the birth of brand-new brain cells. While other people are losing brain cells every day, neurogenesis can counteract the effect somewhat, richly forming new structures to hold the new memories.

There’s another theory as to why time seems to speed up as we grow older. It was first put forward by French philosopher Paul Janet in 1897. It’s sometimes known as ‘log time’. It’s that as we age, a year becomes a smaller fraction of our entire lives up to that point.

A year for a 5-year-old is one fifth (or 20%) of their life so far, but a year to a 50-year old is one fiftieth of their life (or 2% of it) so it seems to pass ten times faster. If you’re 33, a year is 3% of your life so far, so time passes almost seven times faster than it did when you were five. Time for an 80-year-old passes almost in the blink of an eye, sixteen times faster than it does for a 5-year-old.

And if we’re honest with ourselves as adults, this just about feels right.

I’ve found myself pondering on how time is experienced by a baby at the moment of its birth. With no prior experience of time to compare against, no perception of anything to attach labels or meaning to, regardless of which of the above theories we go by, a moment is like infinity, and the first few months of life stretch for eons. Yet for the parents the birth passes in a few minutes and soon the memory is left behind, accelerating into the past.

Your parents experienced your first few years much more quickly that you did, and if you are a parent yourself, then the same can be said for your children.

Overall, the same spans of time are experienced at vastly different rates for different people.

Again, the key to slowing things down is to try something new. I remember when we bought our house a few years ago. It required a huge amount of work. My entire DIY experience to that point was changing a light bulb. I had to learn everything.

Holding a drill was a first for me. Knocking down walls and putting new ones up, brand new. Laying floors – yep – first time! Skirting boards, a first. I even adjusted the size of a doorway because it’s such an old house and they don’t make doors that size any more. Everything was totally novel. Everything was learning.

There were times when I honestly felt like we’d never finish. It just seemed to drag on. Yet it only took 5 months. Sometimes now, when I notice that 5 months has just passed in what felt like a week, I can’t actually believe the renovations only took 5 months.

Shortly after the Covid pandemic began, amid the lockdowns and incredibly novel experiences for everyone, I recall an internet meme of, “What a year this month has been.”

It really did feel like a year.

So have a go this week. See if you can pack in some novel experiences. Cook that meal. Visit that place. Speak with that person. Register on that course. Walk a new path. Pluck up the courage and ask that person on a date. Expand yourself. Stretch into new horizons. Whatever you do, just try something new.

**By David R. Hamilton PhD


5 Replies to “Why Time Speeds Up As You Age”

  1. Wayne McMichael

    Actually, we stream consciousness from Source/God/42, whatever. It is frequency based. That streaming is what we perceive as the passing of Time. The Double Slit Experiment proves that Creation is NOW. When we get excited, we stream more consciousness, faster, having the effect of slowing our perception of Time. When we sleep, Time is perceived to move faster. As we grow older, we slow, our consciousness slows, and that gives us the perception that Time is moving faster. It isn’t complicated.

  2. Harriet

    People with ADHD or ADD can find it very difficult to meditate as thinking is much faster and zooms from topic to topic to topic. Concentrating/ focusing on one idea, topic, plan, etc or even emptying the mind for meditation is difficult unless there is a great deal of interest in it’s outcome. I’m nearly 70 yo and have had every symptom throughout my life, and my ADHD is as strong as ever, but give me something that truly interests me and I can concentrate on it for years if I’m still captivated.
    I kept trying to meditate and once found how it benefited me and can see why people love it. But I also found out there are as many ways to meditate as there are people. So, I do my meditation by reading and becoming informed, figuring things out and problem solving which I am very good at. I found I have been able to reach my ascension goals this way and I’m happy. I found I frequently live in the ‘Now’ anyways because I’m not focusing on anything in particular in the future or past. So that helps.
    Thank you for the article and L & L to all.

  3. Kelly

    I admit I didnt read all of it, mostly because its clear to me as a meditation teacher, that one of the main reasons adults are experiencing time as faster is because they dont know how to be present, FOR IT. Kids are present, they dont fathom past and future, adults do. The more you are actually PRESENT, the more it is NOW, where there IS no time, or, where all time IS. It seems like a lot of the ascended beings have been harping about people learning to be present. I am always taken aback to learn that many of you dont have a daily, formal meditation practice!!! WHAT? 🙂 Sending love to all!

    1. Denise

      I have NEVER been able to mediator, at 53 I have bought books and everything but it’s like there’s a brick wall there stopping me, it even LOOKS like a brick wall in my mind sadly.
      I try now to worry, my Higher Me told me when it started not to worry about it, at the time of the Event I will be given all I need to know🤷‍♂️

  4. Denise

    I just learned to make bread from scratch this week at 53!😁
    I absolutely love it! Taste so much better than store bought and much cheaper.
    Thank you for the wonderfully informative article! 🙏🙏🙏