The ‘Relativity of Time’ and how it affects our daily lives

From last one year, if there is one question I have been asked most of the time, it’s this

How do you find time to do all these?

If you love to explore things, I am sure you have also heard such questions. Although, I don’t think at all that I am potentially doing many things. At the moment, I am a doctoral student, so a major chunk of my time I spend in a research laboratory.

Beside that yeah I do have multiple interests. I love to read and write. Love to call me a fitness enthusiast with a keen interest in running (ran 3 half marathons), and occasionally pursue web designing.

When I think about people in the Renaissance era (Leonardo da Vinci, William Harvey, Michelangelo, etc.) I literally believe it’s quite normal to pursue things which you love. That may be one, two, three, or even multiple things depends on your personality.

Having heard the above question multiple times, I thought

Have I changed a lot in the last 5 years?

When I recall those days (4-5 years back), I realized my interests have grown over the time and somehow I have managed to nurture them. Five years back my life was all about going to college, doing assignments, preparing for examinations, etc. Occasionally I used to read books, magazines but those were not a regular part of my life.

A few months back, when some of my friends asked me that they want to do things they love beside the professional job at the hand, I was like ‘yeah man go for it‘.

But then came the climax, my friends were like-‘that’s easy to say man but I don’t have time to do anything else‘.

Of course, I can not completely understand their situation because everyone’s life is unique and you cannot put yourself entirely in anyone else’s shoe.

However, today I firmly believe that most of our conception about time management or whatever we call it is entirely wrong. If you just think little deep, you will realize that everyone doesn’t perceive 24 hours in a day equally.

It’s like people still believe in a Newtonian way of time. Newton believed that time is absolute. One hour is one hour for everyone, whether you are in space or any other part of the universe.

It’s Albert Einstein in 1905 showed the world with his ‘special theory of relativity‘ that time is not absolute but relative. One hour is not the same for me and you. Different people perceive time in a distinct manner.

Let me give you an example.

Have you heard about ‘Twin Paradox’? Watch the video first

Now you know what ‘time dilation’ is and one hour is not same everywhere.

Now might argue in terms of physics, Einstein said either if you are moving in a very fast rocket (close to lights velocity) or travel near a black hole time slows down.

But how this alteration of time happen on our earth (where we don’t travel near a black hole or in a vehicle close to lights speed)? Why do people perceive time differently?

Time is one of the most enigmatic things for us. We can sense touch, temperature, pressure, pain for that we have receptors in our body. But we cannot sense time. There is no association between time and sensory-specific systems.

We can just measure time which is always moving in the forward direction. For that, we carry watches but we do not need similar devices to determine whether it is cold or whether a sound is loud or soft.

Our perception of time refers to subjective experience and depends on an internal clock (our biological clock). our brains have an inherent ability to process time through the functions of neuronal mechanisms and neurotransmitters.

Think about your childhood, when you were a child you had limitless time. You used to go to school, play with your friends, hung out with your family, friends and even then you had a lot of time. But now it always feels like a shortage of time. You never have enough time.

Why are you experiencing like, time is moving faster as you are aging?

In fact, even scientific studies have proved that time passes faster for older individuals. And there are two major reasons for that- Lack of experience and reduction in dopamine neurotransmission. Let’s discuss them separately

1. Lack of new experiences:

This one is pretty easy to understand right. Compare your 5 to10 year life span with 40 to 45 year of life span. When do you think you have experienced more number of newer things. Obviously, it’s between 5 to 10 years life span. you were a child without any biases, open to learn anything new, had more curiosity, enthusiasm.

But as you are becoming adult and then eventually older most of us live a repetitive lifewith almost no or very few new experiences. It takes a prolonged time to learn something new like reading books, playing guitar, playing tennis, living away from home. This has a strong impact on our memory.

We can vividly remember the beginning of each new experience that occurred to us. when we experience newer things we feel like time is slowing down. This may partly explain why a random day can seem longer for a child than an adult. Most external and internal experiences are new to children, and most experiences are repetitive for adults. So indulge yourself in new experiences, learn something new. Most importantly don’t make your life too repetitive if you want to experience more time.

2. Dopamine and neuropathways:

The ability of our internal clock to estimate the passage of time depends on both attention and memory. To determine the time necessary to perform a given task requires both concentration and memorization of a sequence of information.

You must have observed some people who can do a particular job really fast but for the other person, the same job requires a lot of time and effort. Why does that happen?

It’s because the concentration and memory of the first person are better than the second person for that job.

In humans, concentration depends on the function of dopamine neurotransmission in the basal ganglia and memory depends on acetylcholine neurotransmission in brain areas related to memory in the hippocampal-prefrontal cortex axis. You can read more about the human brain in one of my previous article here.

Dopamine (a hormone and a neurotransmitter) has a strong connection with one’s perception of time. Anything which can increase the function of dopamine can accelerate your perception of time.

Imagine you are at a party with all your friends, enjoying your time. In such scenarios, you will feel time passing pretty fast, while the feeling of sadness or depression (which decelerate dopamine transmission) slow down your perception of time.

The perception of time during a stressful or fearful situation also seems much longer than the actual time that passes. That’s why when you watch a horror movie, you feel like time is moving slowly.

All these suggest that if you are happy and in a state of contentment in life, you are more likely to accelerate your perception of time. While bitterness, anger, jealousy just do the opposite.

Do you still believe that you don’t have time in your life?

Then your priorities in life are in a haphazard state. If your priorities are right, you must be able to find time for doing things which matters to you.

I have another suggestion to get more out of your time. And that’s the ‘power of observation‘. You know ‘to have a look’ and ‘to observe’ are not the same right. Today our attention span has decreased to such an extent that we losing our ability to observe things.

Having read the biographies of people who were skilled in multiple things (like Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin) I can tell you that it’s their amazing ability to observe even micro things which helped them to become a multipotentialite.

If you become more mindful in your life, I am sure you don’t have to say again lines like ‘I don’t have time’.

It’s not necessary to have multiple interests. You may be good in one particular thing and want to go deep only in that subject. That’s perfectly OK.

The problem is not whether you are interested only in one subject or multiple subjects, both are great. The Problem arises when you love doing something but not finding time to pursue that.

“Everytime you are telling yourself that ‘I don’t have time’, you are limiting your potential”

If you are someone like me who has multiple interests then I am urging you to follow your heart and pursue your interests. You will be happier and fulfilled in your life. Time is not the problem. Remember time is relative, not absolute. If you plan correctly you can get more out of your time. Don’t limit your potential.

Just look around you there are people who instead of their busy schedule able to follow their multiple interests. There were people like Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Alexandar Graham Bell, Aristotle, Archimedes, and of course, there are a lot of modern day polymaths. All these people have proven that time is not a barrier between you and your interests.

In conclusion, I want you to remember six key points from this article-

  • Time is relative, not absolute. Everyone perceives time differently.
  • As you are getting older, you will feel like time is passing faster.
  • To prevent or reduce that, explore new experiences frequently, learn something new.
  • Whenever dopamine transmission in your brain will get high, you will accelerate your perception of time. So don’t work to become happy someday, be happy and work.
  • Having multiple interests is perfectly normal. there were and are a lot of successful people like that.
  • Set your priorities in the correct order. ‘I don’t have time’ is a wrong statement, ‘I am not interested’ is a correct statement.

Have a joyful week. Until next week.

Joy

Source:

  1. Quartz.com
  2. The conversation.com
  3. Time perception and age

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