Mindfulness and The Perception of Time

Practicing mindfulness can help slow life back down.
a woman with a picture of an hourglass stuck to her forehead

Mindfulness teaches us to be present in the moment. Many say they don’t have time to practice mindfulness. Most of us experience life as a series of events passing by way too fast. Each day, it seems that time flies by faster and faster now than ever before.  

We know this can’t be true. Time is a constant. It doesn’t pass by faster at 55 years old than it did at 5 years old.  

Or does it?

The Perception of Time

Our perception of how time passes does change as we get older. It’s based on simple math. One year of a 5-year-old’s life is 20%. One year of a 55-year-old’s life is about 2%.

We pay attention to what takes more of our attention and what is new to us. Many more things are new to us at 5 than 55. At 55, we typically fall into routines and the same-old, same-old. This lulls the brain to sleep.

We’ve all had the experience of driving home from work at the end of the day and suddenly realizing we have no memory of the trip or the details of how we arrived home. Time seems shorter because we didn’t pay attention to the commute.

Reflecting on the three commonly accepted components to being mindful…

  • Paying Attention
  • With Intention
  • Without Judgment

… we see why the practice of mindfulness is both challenging and necessary as we age. Especially if we want to slow down our perception of time passing us by.

Keeping Focus

We need to be mindful of how we pay attention to the experiences that make up our lives. If we don’t, we become slaves to mindlessly going from thing to thing. This is how we spiral into a pit of tension and poor health. 

Have you ever had that experience of shooting up in bed at 1 am and asking yourself if you finished that work email? Then you start to stress over the dirty laundry. And Jimmy’s failing grade in biology. Your heart is racing. Your jaw is clenched in anger. You’re breathing fast. There’s no way you’re falling back to sleep. Welcome to the world of stress, overwhelm, and burnout.

This isn’t a phenomenon that happens when we’re trying to sleep either. It also drives daily choices that cause poor mental, emotional, and physical health. What about not recognizing when we’re full and continue eating food that packs on the pounds? Or turning to the 3rd or 4th alcoholic drink? Or calling that friend to gossip about another person, and then feeling awful? Welcome to the world of binge eating, addiction, and failing relationships.

Our brains don’t like change. It feels good to stick to routines because our brains are lazy. Yet doing new things such as mindfulness is very necessary while appreciating routines that serve a purpose in our lives.

Making The Changes

To get started today, try this:

  • Set a New Goal

    Try something new you’ve always wanted to do. It could be anything like reading a book someone told you they loved or learning to play an instrument or taking a yoga class.

  • Don't Ignore Issues

    Don’t avoid addressing an unhealthy behavior lulling you and your brain to sleep. If you’re struggling with eating challenges or stress, overwhelm, or burnout, I invite you to sign-up for my online series to begin mindfully changing.

  • Don't Do It Alone

    Find a community of people actively working on improving themselves. This could be through joining a gym with a community component and support system. It could be through a 12-step program. It might be through a local community center or community college.

Final Thoughts

Remember this quote from Thich Naht Hanh:

Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.Thich Naht Hanh


Alyson Phelan

Alyson Phelan founded Present Moment Mindfulness and Yoga to transform lives.

She teaches science-based mindfulness solutions to individuals and organizations. She holds various degrees and certifications that support her work in the community to help build practical, accessible, and sustainable methods that work. She is a Certified Yoga Teacher, Certified Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher, and Trauma Responsive Care Certified. Visit her blog or try an online class.