EVER dropped your hearing aids in a cup of tea? Or your mobile phone down a toilet? Or knelt on your glasses while looking for them?
The urge to turn back time is intense and especially so if the stakes are high (or in the case of my broken glasses, costly!)
People say that time slows down in the seconds before an accident or in times of high anxiety. But why is that?
Scientists say it’s because our experience of time is affected by how much we remember. The theory goes that more memories are created in times of stress or emergency when our brains are in a fight or flight state and highly focussed.
These extra memories apparently lead us to experience and remember events as being slower and taking longer.
An experiment conducted in the USA tested this theory in a trial that, frankly, I would never join! Way too scary.
Healthy volunteers consented to fall backwards from the apex of a tower a distance of 31 metres into a net. They experienced what must have been an absolutely terrifying freefall lasting about three seconds. Those who took part described how they felt like they were moving in slow-motion, and on average they estimated the fall had taken between four and six seconds, rather than three.
It’s an interesting study and more details can be found here: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0001295
The researchers wanted to find out if the fallers were really experiencing events more slowly. So, they gave them a wristwatch that was showing random numbers flashing just too quickly to read. During the fall they could not see the numbers any more clearly which demonstrates that time doesn’t (of course) really slow down but in recollection, just feels like it does.
The physical reason for this is that in situations of primal terror, a part of the brain increases its activity and this affects the way memories are made and stored.
Would you fall off a tower backwards 31 metres into a net you’re told is safe just to prove that time doesn’t slow down? Not me!
I’m calorie counting at present (again) and definitely this is making the days seem long if not interminable. I’d been wondering why until I read the research article about memories and time. I’m focussing more on how hungry I am, counting the minutes before I can eat again and this attention on food (or the lack of it) is without doubt affecting my perception of my day and not in a good way.
Naturally, I’ve read dozens of self-help books, bought self-hypnosis tapes and googled widely and I know that getting more obsessed with food, weighing myself, thinking about what I can eat and restricting my diet is in fact a recipe for failure. (I have after all been on a diet since 1979 and if I added up all the pounds I’ve ever lost I’d be in minus figures.)
However, I also know that weight is maths. Fewer calories in than out equals weight loss. So, on I go measuring the cucumber slices in my gin and tonics.
Maybe if I took up an extreme sport, sheer primitive fear would stop me eating. Now there’s a thought!