First off, our "sense" of time is less like a sense and more like a perception. Our brain takes information the from sights, sounds, tastes and touches around us, organising it without our conscious recognition. So our understanding of time is dependent on how our brain decides to present it to us.
The Telegraph spoke to Dr Steve Taylor, a lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University and author of Making Time, on how that process works.
“Time perception is related to information processing so the more information our minds and our senses take in the slower time seems to go,” said Dr Taylor said.
“Unfamiliarity – new experiences, new environments, any kind of newness – slows down our perception.”
So if you’re heading to the same holiday home year after year it’s unlikely to give you the same feeling of longevity as backpacking through a completely foreign country.
The Telegraph also highlights research from David Eagleman, a US neuroscientist and best-selling author, on temporal perception and the strong relationship between time and memory.
“In a critical situation, a walnut-size area of the brain called the amygdala kicks into high gear, commandeering the resources of the rest of the brain and forcing everything to attend to the situation at hand,” he writes in an essay called Brain Time.
“When the amygdala gets involved, memories are laid down by a secondary memory system, providing the later flashbulb memories of post- traumatic stress disorder. So in a dire situation, your brain may lay down memories in a way that makes them "stick" better. Upon replay, the higher density of data would make the event appear to last longer.”
To extrapolate, you’ll have stronger memories of adrenaline pumping activities like skydiving or bungee jumping (than say, sunbaking on the beach) which in turn will make the experience seem like it lasted longer than it actually did.
But if you’re not keen to pack your break full of daredevil endeavours Dr Taylor says the opposite can also do the trick. Yep, slow down and try some mindfulness.
“If you make a conscious effort to actually attend to your experiences – in other words being aware of your surroundings and the feeling of being where you are – then that also has the effect of making time slow down,” said Dr Taylor.
This article originally appeared on 7Travel.