Without getting into anything in the realm of physics, would you concede that time is relative? Time passes, or seems to, faster or slower in some situations.

Einstein, in one of his less scientific moments, said “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”

But as I enter “old age,” time seems to be speeding up. What causes this apparently common perception?

Digging around online, I found that one theory is that as we get older we become more familiar with our surroundings. Children, on the other hand, view the world as an unfamiliar place filled with new experiences and are constantly re-configuring their mental ideas of the outside world. According to this theory that childlike view appears to make time pass more slowly for children.

Here’s some curious research from 1996 that asked 25 people aged between 19 and 24, and 15 people
aged between 60 and 80, to estimate a 3-minute interval by counting “seconds”
using a “1, 1000, 2, 1000, …” technique. The younger adults were quite good. They averaged 3:03. But the older group perceived that 3 minutes had passed after 3:40.

The researcher speculates that the brain’s internal clock runs slower as we age. This is not the same as the circadian clock that we usually talk about which controls daily cycles of activity. That brain clock is located in the basal ganglia and substantia nigra and, as we age, brain cells that produce the chemical messenger dopamine, which regulates the clock, begin to deteriorate.

Many studies of human time perception show that age-related changes in the nervous system alter one’s sense of time. And with age, it does seem to move more quickly.

timefliesflickrLow dopamine levels can lead to lack of motivation, fatigue, addictive behavior, mood swings and memory loss. I wonder of increasing dopamine would also change your perception of time passing.

Of course, you could take dopamine supplements, but there are ways to increase it naturally too.

Tyrosine is the building block of dopamine, and some common foods that have this tyrosine protein. Maybe I’ll load up on almonds, avocados, bananas, beef, chicken, chocolate, coffee, eggs, green tea, milk, watermelon and yogurt.

Dopamine increases with discovering and doing new things, listening to music and exercising cause a boost. So does making things in a creative way and meditation.

I eat all those foods and do many of those activities, but I don’t feel like time is slowing down. And messing around with dopamine is probably not a great idea. This neurotransmitter helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, regulates movement and emotional responses. Dopamine deficiency results in Parkinson’s Disease and may make you more prone to addiction. The presence of a certain kind of dopamine receptor is also associated with sensation-seeking people, more commonly known as “risk takers.”

With all that in mind, maybe I’ll just let time fly and try harder to enjoy the view as it whizzes by.