What does fast life mean

psychology: Why does time pass faster and faster in the course of life?

Here are a few shocking truths: Germany's victory in the Eurovision Song Contest with Lena was not two, not three, but four years ago, the introduction of the euro twelve, the fall of the wall even 25 years. As soon as you trudge through everyday life for a moment, another year has passed. Worse still, the older you get, the faster time you seem to go by.

What, birthday again? Class reunion because it was 15 years ago? And didn't I just renew my passport recently? Psychologists found something in a study that helps explain the phenomenon. Among other things, they asked 500 participants between the ages of 14 and 94 how quickly they felt the last ten years had passed. For teenagers this period of time passed slowly, faster for young adults, and even faster for older ones.

The scientists presented the participants with further statements: "I often feel under time pressure", "I often do not have enough time to take care of important things" or "I have a lot of time". The subjects between 20 and 59 agreed more often to the sentences that are associated with time pressure. No wonder, at this age most people are quite busy with work and family.

Our perception is paradoxical: especially when one has experienced little, in retrospect it feels as if the time has passed particularly quickly. A monotonous working day, on which you only do office work, waft through blah-blah conferences and get stuck in waiting loops, sometimes seems to last forever. In the evening you still wonder what you've been doing all these hours. "I am convinced that the memory largely determines the perception of time," says Marc Wittmann from the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Hygiene in Freiburg.

Wittmann led the study on the perception of time with increasing age. "If you experience little new or exciting, fewer memories remain, and in retrospect the time span seems shorter." In his book felt time Wittmann compares life with a vacation: At the beginning you explore the new surroundings, discover unknown smells, dishes and landscapes. Time seems to stretch far. But after a few days something new becomes a habit, after getting up you always look at the same cows in front of a mountain backdrop, stop at Luigi's every lunchtime and splash around in the lake in the evening. And suddenly the vacation is over much too early.



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The many first times in life that you experience in your youth are clearly remembered: the first kiss, the first party, the first apartment of your own. Twenty years in the same office every morning and in front of the television in the same living room every evening, then time flies by. The older people get, the less open they tend to be for new things, as is known from developmental psychology.

But the more new and emotional you experience, the more it is imprinted on your memory - and the longer a period of time looks in retrospect. This also means: Everyone can slow down what feels like time when they experience more first times. In retirement, it even seems to succeed by itself: The Wittmann study showed that people over 60 no longer have the feeling that the years are just racing by. At this age, life seems to slow down. But you don't have to wait that long.

You can find all sources for the articles in ZEIT Knowledge Issue 5/2014 here.