The secret to a longer and happier life is hidden in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

Time seems to fly by when we talk to people we are attracted to, or when we do something we love.

And it also seems to slow down when we do something we find boring.

Perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye.

It turns out that our everyday experience of time aligns with Einstein’s research and his Theory of Relativity.

In particular, it aligns with a phenomenon called Time Dilation.

Time Dilation

If you have seen the film Interstellar, there is a scene where three space travellers are on a big spaceship. Two of them board a smaller landing craft to descend to a planet with a very strong gravitational field.

They remain on the surface of this planet for a matter of minutes. During which time, they face some enormous waves and, after barely making it back to their landing craft, they fly back up to their bigger spaceship which is waiting for them in space. Upon entering the bigger craft, they find that the third space traveller who has been waiting for them has aged many years.

This is an example of Time Dilation.

Each of the individual space travellers experienced time at its normal speed in their own settings. But, relatively, the man who was subject to less gravitational force up in the bigger spacecraft experienced the passage of many more years than the two who visited the gravitational planet.

Mind-blowing!

Why does this happen?

People who are subject to different amounts of gravity experience time at relatively different speeds even though, in their own experience, time seems to be passing at its normal speed.

And it is not just gravity that can cause Time Dilation. Velocity can cause it too.

That is, if twins are standing on planet Earth and one of them goes off in a spaceship and travels around really fast for a while and then returns to Earth, then they will return to find their stay-at-home twin has aged more.

So what exactly is Time Dilation?

According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Time Dilation states that, when compared to someone standing still on Earth, if you go somewhere with more gravity, or you move around really fast (more velocity), then you will return relatively younger than that person standing still on Earth.

Example

When British Astronaut Tim Peake went to live on the International Space Station for 6 months, he experienced Time Dilation in the following ways.

  1. He was in a position of less gravity (gravity is stronger the closer you are to the centre of the Earth), so he aged relatively faster than someone standing still on Earth.
  2. He was moving really fast since he was orbiting the Earth, so he aged relatively slower than someone standing still on Earth.

Putting the two together, the Time Dilation on account of the orbiting speed slightly outweighed the Time Dilation on account of the change in gravity and so he came back relatively younger than the person standing still on Earth.

Time passes by relatively slower on the ISS clock

What has this got to do with our everyday experience of time?

Well, this phenomenon of Time Dilation seems to align with how we experience time in everyday life.

When we are moving fast (with work or with ideas) or when we are subject to the gravitational pull of someone or something we are attracted to, we experience time relatively slower than someone standing still doing nothing on Earth.

Huh?

To explain what I mean, we have to separate out the specific clocks by which we are measuring time.

Firstly, there is the Earth clock. This is any clock on the surface of planet Earth. For example, Big Ben in London.

In the Tim Peake example above, we were comparing time on the Earth clock to time as measured by a clock on the International Space Station.

But now let’s suppose there is the imaginary “head clock” in each person’s head.

When you feel like time is flying by or alternatively like it is dragging, then you are experiencing a discrepancy between your head clock and the Earth clock.

Time can either fly or drag

Example

Let’s suppose you spend a few hours talking to someone you are really attracted to. As Big Ben ticks by, your head clock is ticking by comparatively slower, just as a clock near a black hole (lots of gravity) would tick by relatively slower than Big Ben.

But in your own head you are experiencing time as normal during your all-consuming conversation. It doesn’t feel like time has slowed down for you in the moment.

But when you look up and your head clock feels like, say, 30 minutes have passed by, you notice that the Earth clock has moved on, say, 2 hours. Earth time has flown while you have been talking.

And the same is true when you are completely engrossed in work, or have succumbed to the gravitational pull of sleep. Earth time seems to pass by relatively quickly.

So what?

Well, on the one hand, it could be argued that by doing things that attract us and by moving faster, life will fly by.

And, in the long term, this could mean we will reach our end seemingly faster because we only live for a certain number of “Earth clock years”.

But what if humans are actually set to live for a certain amount of “head clock years”, not Earth clock years?

Suppose you are set to live for 100 head clock years. Then by spending time around people you are attracted to, by moving faster, by sleeping loads and by engrossing yourself in work that interests you, you will live for relatively more years as measured by the Earth clock, maybe 150 years or something!

If you move fast and towards things that attract you, you can live for more Earth clock years

Perhaps Tim Peake came back from the International Space Station even younger than we think, because he probably had such a great time up there.

In Summary

If you do the following things…

  1. Spend more time with people you are attracted to,
  2. Spend more time doing things that interest you,
  3. Move faster (but don’t rush!),
  4. Sleep more,
  5. Anything else that makes time fly past on the Earth clock,*

…then you will live for longer when you measure the length of your life by the Earth clock (which we all do).

*(unless it damages your health! Certain things can really make the Earth clock fly by, but some of these things can be harmful too, just as going too close to a black hole would not end well.)

Finally, a quote from Einstein himself on the subject.

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” — Albert Einstein

If you think this blog has lengthened your life, please click👏 and share it with others.

If you feel a gravitational pull to read another of my blogs, please check out my previous blog The marshmallow method: a new technique to increase productivity.

Also please check out my company www.pilcro.com for a way to save time (as measured by the Earth clock) when you organise, share and access your brand assets.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 281,454+ people.

Subscribe to receive our top stories here.