Usually these two perceptions match up and time feels smooth, but sometimes they get out of sync. Ageing is an example of this. The days still feel as though they pass at an average speed, but we’re surprised when markers of time indicated how many months and years have passed or at how quickly birthdays come round yet again. Part of the reason is that as we get older life inevitably brings fewer fresh experiences, and more routines. Because we use the number of new memories we form to gauge how much time has passed, an average week that doesn’t loom large in the memory gives the illusion that time is shrinking.
There is a remedy. If you want the weekend to go slowly, don’t spend time resting and watching TV. Instead fill it with new experiences and by Sunday night you will look back and the weekend will seem long.
That said, we do have to ask ourselves whether we really want to slow time down. If you look at the circumstances where evidence tells us that time goes slowly, they include having a very high temperature, feeling rejected and experiencing depression.
So, as surprising or frustrating as it might seem, perhaps if life does seem to be rushing by it is a sign that things are going well.
If you want to test your own time perception, there are some games you can play on Claudia's website.
You can hear more Medical Myths on Health Check on the BBC World Service.
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