Feel like time is flying by? Discover how to slow down time with these expert tips to help you to savour life’s precious moments, and live life to the fullest.
We’ve all experienced it – that wonderful summer vacation felt like it whizzed by. Meanwhile, those humdrum days of January stretch like an endless elastic band. Time either speeds by or moves at a snail’s pace.
So, what is it that makes some moments feel more fleeting than others? And is there anything we can do to effectively slow down time and eek out more enjoyment? We asked a few experts.
“Time perception is subjective, it can vary from person to person and situation to situation,” explains Dr. Ryan Sultan, MD., and research assistant Peter Menzi, of Columbia University. “And while we can’t actually alter the fundamental flow of time, we can manipulate our perception of it to make enjoyable moments feel longer.”
According to Dr. Sultan and Menzi, our engagement in and mindfulness of certain moments can significantly impact how we enjoy and experience time, while the novelty of new experiences, emotional factors, and even our age, also play a role.
“When we are fully engaged and attentive to an activity or experience, it tends to make time feel like it's passing more slowly,” they note. “As we age, however, our internal clock may speed up, causing time to feel like it's passing more quickly. This can lead to the sensation that time flies as we get older.”
Dr. Avigail Lev, founder and director of California’s Bay Area CBT Center, agrees that mindfulness may be the key to feeling more in control. “The more present we are, the more flexibility we have to either savour the moment or let it fade away,” she explains.
“When we practise mindfulness and immerse ourselves in the present, we become aware of our senses: what we smell, see, taste, and hear. This mindfulness grants us greater choice in each moment, whether it's to let things go without clinging to them, or to express gratitude and appreciation.”
Dr. Carl Nassar PhD, a professional counsellor based in Denver, has a relatable example to perfectly illustrate this phenomenon. “When I eat a meal, one I really love, I have this bad habit of getting so excited about the food that I eat it quickly,” he shares. “So, I miss out on savouring each bite and really enjoying the experience.”
“If you want to make those good moments last a little longer, see if you can become more available to them,” he says. “Be sure to not to hurry through – really take in the sights and sounds and the feelings; really show up for it. It’s a sure-fire way to extend the positivity of an experience."
But what about those achingly uncomfortable moments that we’d really quite like to speed up? Well, Dr. Nassar has a radical suggestion – fully lean into it. “While it sounds paradoxical at first, the surest way to make an unwelcome experience shorter is to welcome it,” he explains.
“The more time each of us spend resisting what is happening, the longer the experience persists. In contrast, if we open our hearts to what is happening right before our very eyes, if we can say to the experience: ‘I wish you weren’t here, but you are here, so I’m going to trust that there is meaning in this moment,’ then we become a seeker of meaning instead of a resistor of reality.”
Ready to take control of your perception of time? Try putting some of these expert tips into action.
Prioritise quality time
“Engaging in activities that elicit strong emotions, such as spending quality time with loved ones or pursuing your passions, can slow down your perception of time,” say Dr. Sultan and Menzi. “These emotionally charged moments are also more likely to be etched in your memory.”
“Multitasking can make time seem to pass quickly, as your brain is divided among various activities,” note Dr. Sultan and Menzi. If you’re trying to speed up a long work day, that may not sound like a bad thing. But if you’re regularly managing your life this way? Try focusing on one thing at a time, so that you can immerse yourself more fully in each moment.
Document your joy
“Techniques such as writing things down, practising mindfulness, indulging in self-compassion meditations, doing progressive muscle relaxation, and expressing gratitude can all help prolong a moment of joy, while also making it more accessible to us in the future,” says Dr. Lev.
Hit pause on social media
“These days we can often spend more time trying to capture a memory for social media, than actually being in the moment and fully experiencing it,” says mentor and life coach Sara Goode. “As soon as we start to think about what we are going to do with a moment, we’ve moved on from actually living it.”
Set goals and celebrate achievements
“Setting and working toward meaningful goals can help you break down time into manageable segments,” say Dr. Sultan and Menzi. “When you achieve these goals, celebrate them and take the time to savour your success.”
Try something new
“Routine activities can lead to a sense of time passing quickly, whereas novel experiences can make time seem to slow down while we engage in something new and exciting,” say Dr. Sultan and Menzi. “Incorporating new experiences, activities, hobbies, or travel into your life can all help break this monotony.”