There are some interesting relationships between how our minds and memories work, and how we experience time. This seems especially pertinent at the moment. I hear from many people that lockdown is causing them to experience days really dragging by in a slow way, and yet somehow this year seems to have gone very quickly.
It’s to do with how we store memories. Our brains only store specific memories of stand-out things – this is why you are more likely to remember the first time you did something than the eleventh time. Once something becomes a generic experience, you won’t remember it as precisely. If you have routines, you’ll remember the generic routine, and only remember specific instances that stood out from it.
Time moves differently for us when we’re paying attention to it. A day with novelty in it, with different activities and experiences – some of which are not overly familiar – is a day that moves quickly and at the same time seems to last longer.
Life in lockdown has proved narrow for many people, and so time drags, but at the same time there are no stand out memories formed through recent months.
It would be fair to say that I’ve not had this experience personally – a great deal has happened for me, and I’ve had enough stand out experiences that March seems rather a long time ago.
What we do impacts dramatically on how we experience time, and that in turn can have a significant impact on quality of life and feelings of satisfaction. I find it interesting that we are encouraged from so many sources to have routines – especially around our spiritual lives. A daily practice that is too routine will just tend to become a generic memory. A more varied approach may very well leave a person with a richer and more interesting sense of their own spiritual life and self.