Time Travel: How To Trick Your Brain Into Slowing Down

Dec 20, 2016 · 3 min read

by Felix Morgan

You don’t have to find yourself on the other side of the world to spark change or experience something new.

Remember how long a summer seemed when you were a kid? Or a one week sleepover camp? In the space of seven days alliances were formed and broken, loves were lost and found, friendships were forged that might last a few days or lifetime. Compare that to this week. What did you do with these last seven days of your life? How quickly did it seem to go by?

The older you get, the more your days seem to slip away. And it’s not just the poets who say so, it actually has a lot to do with neuroscience and psychology.

When you’re a kid, you’re learning so much all the time. Every day you encounter a new idea or situation. Your brain takes all this in, creating “thick” memories with a lot of information about everything around you. But the more you do the same thing, the more routine your life becomes, the less you need all that info about each passing moment. Your brain starts making “thin” memories. The way you experience time is directly tied to how much information you are storing about each moment in your day.

“Time is not only at the heart of the way we organize life, but the way we experience it.” — Claudia Hammond

Adults usually experience this when they travel. Your mind hasn’t learned what information is important about this new place, so it will try to store more about everything. It’s called invokes the “holiday paradox”: a week-long vacation feels long while you are experiencing it. More like the way childhood felt.

The more strange a place or situation you place yourself in, the slower time will feel. You store more information about each moment. The sights, the smells, the noises around you. All of it is there, and those memories will last longer too.

When I first found out about this phenomenon I immediately wondered what would happen if you travelled continually. Would you feel like you lived forever? Would your life seem longer than your friends who mostly exist in the world of 9–5?

But the truth is some routine is inescapable. You don’t have to go to Machu Picchu to introduce novelty into your days. Drive a different route. Go to salsa night. Learn something new. Talk to someone you think you have nothing in common with.

Become a subjective time traveler. Keep a bit of curiosity in your pocket. Be willing to step out your door and into the unknown.


Felix Morgan is a writer, professor, and online-dating consultant. She lives in Austin, Texas with two warrior-princess-ninja-superheroes and some other wild animals. You can read more of her musings, emo poetry, and weird fiction here.

Originally published at holstee.com for the online magazine, Mindful Matter.

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The Nonlocal Journal is a place for writing that leads to new ways of looking at things.


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The Nonlocal Journal

The Nonlocal Journal is a place for writing that leads to new ways of looking at things.

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