Monday, November 7, 2016

The Gift of Time

Below is my monthly message from Focus. You can view November's edition of Focus on StarPort.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We all woke up this morning to a rare gift – the gift of an extra hour.

Lately, I have heard many comments about how quickly time is passing by. We are already well into the fall while it feels like summer just ended. The beautiful colors and the fallen leaves this weekend remind us that winter is just around the corner. And it is not just the rapid change of season. My gosh, I have trouble fathoming that my son is in high school and is already starting to talk about getting his drivers’ permit – how did that happen so fast?

Well, the truth is that perceived time does move more quickly as we get older. When we were children, the summer holidays seemed to last forever and the wait till Christmas felt like an eternity. But as adults, time zips by with a whirlwind of activity and blurred calendars. As a scientist, I was curious about this and found out there are some biologically plausible explanations.

The most commonly accepted theory is that the perceived passage of time is related to the amount of new perceptual information we absorb. With lots of new stimuli, our brains take longer to process the information so that the period of time feels longer. In addition, when faced with a new situation, our brains will record details more richly into our memories. This makes our recollection of the event appear slower rather than the event was itself. This phenomenon helps explain the ‘slow motion’ effect described by a victim after an accident.

But does this explain the continued shortening of perceived time as we age? As we get older, we get more familiar with our surroundings and we no longer need to remember the details. The more familiar we become with our day-to-day experiences of life, the less details we need to remember and the faster time seems to run.

So what is the solution? It’s simple – take in and enjoy the new experiences that each day has to offer, both at work and at home. At MedStar Health, we are fortunate to have so many opportunities, every day, to gain new experiences caring for people and advancing health. By definition, advancing health through research, innovation, education or new quality/safety initiatives, is a new experience. And not only are you helping the patients of today and tomorrow, you are getting a meaningful experience yourself (i.e., new memories for your brain).

Yes, winter is just around the corner but for today, the sun is out, the sky is blue, and the colors are tremendous. So, rather than worrying about how fast time is moving, just:
  1. Recognize that our perceived speed of time has a biologic bases; and,
  2. Understand that both the perceived and actual time, like the actual beauty of today, is just a function of what you do with it.
Enjoy what the fall has to offer and thank you for creating new experiences at MedStar by advancing health.

Neil

 

 

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