Have you noticed that time flies when you are excited and enjoy doing something? Most of the time, I experience this. In reverse, time drags on when I am bored, fearful, or worried.
There are many explanations for this, and in psychophysics, time perception and emotion have something to do with norepinephrine and dopamine.
Researchers have found that impaired time perception and abnormal dopamine levels are linked. Other researchers imply that slowing and speeding up time has to do with clinical conditions like schizophrenia, depression, PTSD, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity. All of these conditions are linked to erratic temporal awareness. However, most changes in time perception are due to emotional state.
How Emotions Change Time
There is also experimental research that suggests that emotions affect time perception.
When we have emotional distractors, the to-be-timed neutral stimuli are present, making time slow. On the other hand, sustaining attention happens when to-be-timed emotional positive stimuli are present, making time seem fast.
Sentience, attention, and bodily arousal changes can explain slowing down or speeding up time connected to the emotion-time link. Thus, emotional influences on time are due to a mixture of various mechanisms.
Overall, people can perceive time differently depending on their emotional and psychological state of mind.
Examples of Slowing Down Time
Fear of Danger
When we experience extreme danger such as accidents or violence, it seems like time is slow. Sometimes, these dreadful events even seem to happen in slow motion.
When I was driving on a rainy day, my car’s rear tires skidded when they lost their grip. I felt time slowed down when I knew I had to steer the tires.
Although time did not slow down, I felt that the event was happening in slow motion. I felt it happened much longer when in fact it was just a second or two. This seems surreal, but I can compare it to movie scenes in slow motion.
Boredom or Lack of Enjoyment
Another example is when we feel bored when doing something.
My mind tends to wander since it is not occupied or interested in what I am doing at the moment. Moreover, my mind wanders towards the clock, making time pass by slowly, instead of focusing on something positive.
Examples of Speeding Up Time
On the other hand, when I enjoy an activity, my mind is focused on having fun. Thus, I do not worry about the time since I want to enjoy every moment of the activity. I am present and in the moment.
Not only does time pass by fast when I enjoy an activity, but it moves even faster when I am also focused on reaching a goal.
I may be excited about the result, which makes me focused on the activities that will achieve my goal.
What Is a Flow State?
When I am doing an activity and absorbed in it, I am in a flow state, which psychologists refer to as a mental state of flow. By achieving this mental state, I can feel greater involvement, energy, and enjoyment.
For instance, when I am in an Ironman triathlon competition, which I enjoy, I am absorbed in the current activity. I am focused on how the water feels while swimming, biking, and running, and my body’s power and movements.
I am living in the moment, making time fly very fast. This is when I am in a state of flow or complete immersion in an activity.
I am using my skills, and my whole being is involved, which makes it enjoyable and satisfactory.
The Benefits of Flow States
When I am in a state of flow, I can take advantage of the following benefits:
- Motivated: I can increase my motivation and enjoyment since flow is a positive mental state.
- Fulfilled: Since I am immersed in the activity when in a state of flow, I become more fulfilled, as I find the activity more rewarding and enjoyable.
- Happy: As a result of being fulfilled, I become happier.
- Engaged: Moreover, a state of flow allows me to be involved or engaged in the activity.
- Improved Performance: The overall result is that I get to produce quality work if I am in a state of flow.
What Happens When I Am in a Flow State?
According to experts, when I am in a flow state, my brain activity changes, and my dopamine increases. That is why I can use flow state to change my emotions and speed up time.
I can apply it to various areas in my life, such as the workplace, sports, and education.
Flow in the Workplace
I can use flow to improve my work performance because I am engaged and focused on the project at hand. For instance, I can achieve a flow if I enjoy working on a project.
Flow in Sports
When I am focused on a sport, I can remove any inhibitions to win. Flow allows me to experience a sense of mastery and loss of self-consciousness because I am in the moment of the challenge.
Flow in Education
Another example is when I stretched my current ability level or skills to learn a concept while at school. Since I found it challenging and wanted to learn about it, I could experience a flow state.
How to Be in the Right Emotional State
Set Specific Goals
One of the best ways I can achieve a flow state is when I know my goal. For instance, if my goal is to win a swimming competition, I can use specific responses to achieve it. This results in focusing on the competition until it is finished.
When distractions surround me, I cannot experience flow because they compete with my attention. Thus, I should remove any distractions that may hamper me from focusing on the activity.
Make It Challenging
Moreover, I can also experience flow when the task is challenging. Since I know that I have to overcome such a challenge, I can focus on dealing with it by learning new skills.
Choose What I Enjoy
Since I know the activities that I enjoy, I may have to choose the ones I know I will not get bored with. For instance, if I want to earn money, I might choose a passion and make it profitable instead of trying to work at a job I do not enjoy.
How to “Slow Down” and “Speed Up” Time By Changing Your Emotional State
I can do things to change my emotional state to speed up or slow down time. Since this is subjective, I can manipulate factors such as my emotions to make this concept serve me.
Shift My Attention
Since time slows down when I focus on more things, I can shift my attention to one task at a time. By doing this, I can make time fly by faster. This seems counterintuitive, but it is real.
Instead of getting bored during lectures, I will try to focus on the topic and challenge myself to understand it. By doing this, I will not divert my attention by checking my watch and anticipating that time is moving slower.
Engage My Emotions
Occasionally, when my emotions are aroused or engaged, I may experience slower time.
For instance, if I see faces that do not display emotions, I see them quite faster than seeing faces with emotions, like happy or angry faces. Another example is when I am in a high-stakes and emotional competition; I tend to feel that the time is moving slower because of feelings of anticipation.
Depending on the emotions and situation, I may slow down or speed up the time.
The Key Takeaway
When I learn how emotions can affect how I perceive time, I can easily control how I feel. Not only are emotions vital to how I react, but they can also change my time perception.
As a result, I can make time go faster during activities I do not enjoy by challenging myself to achieve a flow state. This will then make me engaged in the activity, making me lose track of time and be in the moment.