Reality Check: Does Time Fly?

Wow! It’s mid-summer already! How did that happen? It seems like just a few minutes ago, we were scraping snow off the walkways. Time goes so quickly, day after day, week upon week, with whole months, even years, flying by.
Even if individual days drag, it can still be startling to realize that we have reached this point in summer already.
Our sense of time is curious. Logically, we know that time continues in an orderly way. A second is a second, and a year is a year, no matter where you are in your life. So why would we perceive the passage of time differently at different times in our lives?
For years here on the South Shore, Dr. Inga Nomm wrote a popular informational column about natural health issues. I happened to be perusing some of her old columns when I came across one where she had written about this very topic—Why time flies as we get older.
She made some interesting points about memory, its reliability (or lack of) and the selectivity of what we remember. If you look back over your life, it’s likely that you will find that some years, days, or hours stand out, while there are long stretches of time that we can barely remember. Why?
As Dr. Nomm says, “Our brain is selective in what it decides to store. The more routine; the fewer memories.” Some stages of our lives are more routine than others. When we are young, our lives are filled with “firsts.” They may be happy firsts, such as your first new love, celebrating your first big achievement, buying your first car or building your first house.
We may also have memorable negative occasions, such as an accident, a serious illness, a betrayal. Those memories can also stick, even if you’d rather that they didn’t.
Dr. Nomm suggests that our brain tends to omit repeat events. If we experience months or years of nothing but routine, fewer memories are stored. For example, I vividly remember my visit to a falconry during a vacation years ago. More routine vacations, even to the same area, barely register in my memory.
When we’re not making new memories, the days and years blend together and we get the perception that time has flown by.
The good news is that no matter our age or stage of life, we can make more of our time by choosing to make more memories. How?
Some of Dr. Nomm’s suggestions include deliberately creating “firsts” in our lives by making changes. Shake up the routine. Changes don’t have to be huge; just choose new, different activities.
For example, this could be the summer that you visit every beach or hike every trail in a certain area. It could be the summer that you read every book from a favourite author. This could be the year that you join a group. This could finally be the weekend you contact a friend you haven’t seen in years.
Maybe now’s the time you take up ukulele-playing, glass-fusing, or feather-collecting. Today could be the day you finally start that project that you always thought would be fun.
We remember the unusual, the non-routine. Sometimes events and their memories just happen for us. But we can make our memories happen, too.
What is your perception of time? Is it flying or dragging? Are you satisfied with how it’s going?

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