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How can you make subjective time go slower? (theoryengine.org)
134 points by panic 44 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 67 comments

"Dunbar loved shooting skeet because he hated every minute of it and the time passed so slowly. He had figured out that a single hour on the skeet-shooting range with people like Havermeyer and Appleby could be worth as much as eleven-times-seventeen years."


The full quote is worth your while:


The full book is worth your while.

It's admittedly a long read, but one of the funniest books I've ever read, chock-full of absurd conversations and timeless satire.


It is indeed funny at first, and for a long while thereafter. After though, it descends at first by degrees then quite abruptly into depressing grimness, revealing the scope of a tragedy that was the case all along, only veiled by that wonderfully absurd, sometimes black humor.

I love this book like few other novels, partly because it has so much more impact than a simple comedy would..

Indeed. The first time I read that I was actually crying laughing on the train ... and then as the book progresses you realise the depth of the sadness that was underneath all along.

"We'll lose on every deal, but we'll make it up in volume!"

This story made me think of the joke about the guy who was told by his doctor that he has only 6 months to live. He decides to move in with his mother-in-law, because living with her for 6 months will seem like forever.

I used to think that novelty the key to making time go slow, I now think there is a limit to this. I've had a couple jobs that are absolutely filled with novelty, where every day is pretty different from the last. At some point, it becomes a bit of a vortex. I know I've done a lot, but damned if I can actually remember it at the end of the day.

This also happened to me when spending six weeks backpacking in Europe. At some point, the novelty itself became routine. Another castle, another hostel, another view, another language, another transit system. I knew it was time to head back to home base when I felt like I was losing the capacity to be awed by things that were objectively awesome. A couple weeks of being stationary was all it took to get that back a bit.

In order to slow down time, you need not just novelty, but also changes in real circumstances.

I know that feeling exactly. When my wife and I were traveling in the southwest US, we called it "vista fatigue" -- There are only so many times you can be wowed by even the most beathtaking views when there's another one around the next bend too.

> I used to think that novelty the key to making time go slow, I now think there is a limit to this.

Yes. Similar experience here. I moved countries at 40. The first few months it feel like being 20 years younger. I wanted to see everything and went around discovering each place possible.

But, I am not young anymore. Nowadays, my new country is my new home and it feel cozy an familiar and time passes faster than ever.

> This also happened to me when spending six weeks backpacking in Europe.

For me it took longer. I have visited Japan 5 times, usually 5-6 weeks each time. I have visited temples, museums, parks, events, ... The last time I spend half of the time shopping. As, I felt that each new temple is similar to the previous one.

Even traveling to South Korea, and China it does not slows time so much. I guess that the similarities with other Asian countries makes my brain feel like "I have seen that one before".

I would be very interested in knowing if the problem is just age or to have seen already many things. Probably a combination of both.

Yeah, in other words you need to be regularly on and off in order to better enjoy the time when you are off.

It sounds like it wasn't really novelty, then, right?

the unexpected

The article makes a few interesting points, but fails to make the distinction between the two modes in which one can assess the slowness of time: in the moment, and looking back.

Doing something dull, repetitive, routine will seem to take a long time in the moment. However, looking back it won't leave the impression of a lot of time having pased, as your brain will compress similar experiences into one.

The article argues for trying to slow down time looking back (which makes sense to me), but some comments in this thread (bringing up things like meditation) are talking about slowness it the moment.

I wonder if it’s almost like memory compression. Repetitive data gets compressed much more easily than unique data. Looking back on boring tasks and jobs it seems like much shorter amounts of time than long trips even when the jobs were for years and the trips were for weeks.

These days I try to fill my free time with things I consider substantive. Projects, long leisurely meals with friends and family, interesting trips, good books, good food, etc. however at this moment some of those are in short supply so I’m trying to rekindle old hobbies like writing, tinkering, and music.

Plank exercise. A minute or two seem to last forever. Or waiting for a microwave to heat your food.

Kidding aside, meditation can help, as can just being out in nature without keeping your mind busy by stressing out with a screen in front of you.

I was going to answer planks too! Whenever anyone complains to me about time going to fast, I suggest planks :)

I have a similar solution for insomnia. "You haven't run enough miles".

I agree with Planks for sure. Calisthenics in general cause time to slow down to a crawl for me. 30 second timed-sets seem like an eternity.

Meditation goes very quickly for me if I am comfortable, but if I have any kind of sitting pain, it is an unbearable odyssey.

This person planks.

Another vote for novelty. When I met my wife, she was pushing us to do new things all the time. It seemed like every day we would try a new cafe, a new restaurant, see a new part of town, explore a new trail... There was a 6 month period that felt like it could have been years.

Since moving to the valley and getting absorbed in work, we've stopped doing things. We'll try a new restaurant every week, and maybe go on a day trip every few months. We're coming up on our two year anniversary of moving here and frankly I feel like we could just move on and forget the entire chapter of our life. The last two years feel like 6 months, and that's only because we got married last year and took a week long honeymoon.

If I look back through my photo album, there is a startling difference in the number of pictures I've taken too. I've started forcing myself to just take random pictures now and then just so I don't end up without a record of this time in my life.

I don't know how true it is, but the reason I've heard that routine makes it seem like time goes faster is because your brain condenses similar experiences. If you have a lot of similar days, your brain will interpret them mostly as the same day, making it feel like you don't know where the time went.

Yup, when you constantly do new things time does seem to last a lot longer! Great way to make a 6 day holiday feel like 2 weeks!

Meditation can make subjective time slow down, both in the negative, being bored way, while struggling to enter absorbtion, but also in the opposite way - and that, to a degree that is otherwise unimaginable. Almost like stepping out of time into timelessness.

Can you explain more? This is such a foreign concept to me but I'd love to try and understand.

It’s different for everyone and there’s multiple methods to meditation.

To naively summarize, it’s kind of like counting sheep but instead of sheep you’re counting breaths. You take the time to notice things that you don’t normally notice. Your chest rising and falling with each breath. What do you smell. Notice how much force you exert on your seat as you sit, etc etc.

Ironically, if you are bored then meditation is the absolute best way to find something to do. 10 minutes easily feels like 40 minutes. Your brain will naturally drift and start prioritizing the most important things you need to work on. Maybe you’ve been procrastinating and all of a sudden you have an urge to go deal with that stuff.

After meditating you have a good sense of what you need to do next, which unfortunately can then make time speed up as you get busy.

It ultimately has to be experienced, since it's about dropping/representational out of the discursive mode in which we spend most of our waking time (the default mode network in cognitive science). For me it feels like returning to reality after a VR session. Or like exiting a hall of mirrors. Experience gets imbued with a feeling of stableness, stillness, contentment and appreciation of the simple fact of just being. There's a podcast that talks about these things, for example this episode: https://deconstructingyourself.com/dy-014-diving-deep-jhanas... Zen and the Brain is a good book on the connections with neuroscience.

I turned to mindfulness/meditation as a tool when I was about to burn out. My brain seems sensitive in general to any kind of stimulation I should add... At my fourth or fifth attempt at a so called “body scan” my mind just “dropped” - it was as if everything went silent and I could not decide whether I was asleep or wake.

The best way I can describe my experience in this state, that I’m able to reach from time to time, is like being in between frames of film - I’m in the dark part after one frame, not reaching the next, and everything is just still.

Controlled but yet completely uncontrolled and a few minutes feels much much longer, but nothing makes me want to leave.

After the first time it happened I ran out to my wife and yelled “holy expletive! Now I get what this thing is about!”.

It really made a change for me and it makes my brain/mind feel about the same as it does after a run. Fresh.

Mindfulness can likewise be used to slow down subjective time.

Just do new things. Go to new places, talk to new people, try new things. It can be as simple as not taking the same route to work/grocery store/etc every time. Mix it up.

Some claim that time feels quicker as you get older because each passing minute is a smaller and smaller portion of your life(e.g. summer for a 6 year old is 5% of their life, whereas it is only half a percent of the life of a 50 year old). But I don't buy that.

Time goes quicker as you get older because people get stuck in the same routine, and it is quite easy to compress memories together when you do the same thing every day. So, go explore, every day, even if it is just mental exploration through books or music, and time will surely slow down.

I think both factors contribute. It's why my childhood occupies such a large amount of my mental memories. My brain had more dedication to those years.

Emigration to completely new environment/society. Another language, people, culture. Lots of new things to learn.

I could not agree more!

This is why I loved traveling for work. Each week felt different. Time slowed down compared to a job with the same daily routine.

I would love a job where I got to travel like that, sadly they aren't common in software.

An individual's peak alpha frequency can determine whether two closely spaced flashes of light will be viewed as a single flash. People with faster IPA (individual Peak Alpha) have a faster frame-rate, a faster sampling frequency [1].

In principle, one might use TACS (transcranial alternating current stimulation) or other rhythmic stimuli to entrain IAP and boost one's frame rate. Present work shows that TACS can lower the frame rate, making people more likely to fuse flickers than distinguish them [2].

[1] https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.11.089771v1....

[2] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.0176...

Or use neuralink

Prediction: Pro gamers will soon need to be divided between normal and “implant enchanced” categories in leagues

Are there any kind of enhancements that are currently illegal in competitive gaming, such as banned substances?

Milton Erickson did some interesting studies on using hypnosis to get subjective time to go slower for his subject (Time Distortion in Hypnosis: An Experimental and Clinical Investigation).

The interesting part is that it works and has measurable results. From memory, subjects that have been made to feel that times goes slower would be able to count more objects in the same (objective) time.

> I’m sure you’ve noticed that 2020 has seemed longer than other years. I argue this is because of a disruption to so many of our routines.

I would have thought most people would be feeling the opposite. After the initial disruption, life in lockdown has become a monotonous routine. I find it strange to be in September already.

I think any current year seems the longest to most people. Just as the current day does.

Have kids.

Not everyone would make a good parent or want to be one. That’s fine. There’s so many ways to live a whole life. But for me, becoming a parent made time simultaneously slow right down and race by.

I’m typing with one thumb as I rock my youngest to sleep so I’ll keep it short: you do countless things every single week that you probably never would have done again. And as they grow up those things constantly change. Variety keeps my weeks feeling absolutely loaded with meaningful segments. But it also flies by given how fast they grow as people.

Off the top of my head, this weekend only: climbed a playground, ran through a sprinkler, sidewalk chalk, played Mario 2, made trains from construction paper, remembered how to draw a star with one stroke. I danced and I sang.

It truly does slow life right down subjectively. I’m cherishing every moment. I didn’t think it was going to be this fulfilling.

Good for you, man.

It's not for me, but it's nice to hear people who actually enjoy it, not just going through the motions because "that's what people do".

I don't think I've experienced boredom in any meaningful quantity since I got a smartphone. I've often had my doubts about this being a good thing.

I feel like the opposite. I think internet is more boring every passing day, so even if I'm doing something (like reading hackernews right now), I'm very, very bored. But having HN to read I don't engage in a real activity that could be an interesting physical or social interaction.

Try camping, even with all the work to do, you'll be surprised how (pleasantly) slow 20 mins can go! :)

I have independently 'discovered' the relation between novelty, the momentary feeling of time passing and the retrospective feeling of time passed when I was a teenager.

They go in opposite directions:

- novelty -> time flies in the moment but seems much expanded when you remember it

- boring and repetitive activity -> time seems to crawl in the moment but in memory it seems to vanish

Another way to increase the subjective feeling of time is to be a parent.

Be somewhere you don't want to be and where it is not much (work) to be done. Seriously: Few years back, we had the draft in Germany and these were the longest 9 months of my life. Especially the first 3 (bootcamp style) seemed never to end: Days felt like weeks! Even though later on the people around were kind of ok, the time kept dragging on... You often hear the same kind of story from prisoners. In all seriousness: My time there really got me thinking especially if I compare it with how fast a year passes by nowadays...

There is something more to be said for the premium we put on time. We've adopted apt phrases like time is money. And it tends to be described with words like priceless, valuable, precious.

The relationship we've created with time makes us want to rush through things quickly. This is where the "time flies" feeling can come from. It actually makes us less resourceful and less productive. By placing less of a premium on time we widen our options in all things - life and work included.

So the problem with this is that I don't care about how long I have lived, but how much longer I still have to live. And novelty doesn't change that.

I wonder if noticing time going by so quickly is an indicator to start doing less. I think boredom could help with self-reflection about how you're living life, and really notice what makes you happy/unhappy. Doing smaller lifestyle correcting could be better than holding it all and having a mid/quarter/yearly-life crisis.

The author spends nearly a quarter of this piece forgetting that not the whole world shares the same seasons.

Some days ago I saw a video that suggested that subjective time seems to be slower when we are younger because our neurons are firing more actively. As we grow older, they tend to fire less. Anyway, it is just one aspect.

Good idea, but the whole text could've been summarized in like 2 sentences...

Breaking routine sounds exhausting and unsustainable, a classic individualist falicy. I feel like getting more sleep and doing fewer stimulants (caffeine) is the type of advice this audience actually needs.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies (...) The man who never reads lives only one.”

― George R.R. Martin

"Unless he watches movies or plays games instead, or just has a really good imagination".

-- Anonymous internet smartass

I honestly kinda like time seeming to pass faster... Time going slow tends to imply a negative experience for me. Faster, faster!

When I deeply meditate, I can sometimes make subjective time go faster, so that I can look at clouds and they look time-lapse.

Inspiring article. Just cancelled the apartment and closed the company to get some novelty in my life.

I'm not sure how they do it, but somehow this happens as soon as I arrive at the office!

Go sit on a heater. If you want it to speed up: go sit on the sofa with someone you love.

Easy - hold a plank

marijuana, living alone, decadence, literature, blocking out light & sound, passion for your work. time disappears.

Sit at home and wait for covid19 to pass.

climbers saying:

on a wall, a second is a century

here you go

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