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Time Flies

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

My daughter brought home her heavy back pack filled with school supplies we eagerly purchased last August. In a blink, another school year is complete. It reminds me of the lettuce seeds we planted this past February. They were so tiny. Brown little specks, but under the right conditions, they grew. Now they are vibrant green leaves.

As mothers, we tend to our precious garden that is ready for harvest when full grown. Seeds, just as with our children, thrive on sunlight and nourishment. Even if the sun is just behind the clouds. A mother’s warmth sustains precious seedlings and allows them to grow to their fullest potential.

I am so thankful to sources of temporary, but also vital importance to my seedlings. Educators and coaches offer a big chuck light to our children’s day. Some seedlings require more effort during certain times, while others during different times. But they all grow into beautiful and unique flowers.

While sorting through well-worn notebooks and markers, I ponder how time flies. "Tempus Fugit" is inscribed onto many clocks. Originally coined by the Roman poet Virgil. "Sed fugit interea, fugit inreparabile tempus." In other words, "Fast flies meanwhile the irreparable hour."

Andrew Huberman, a Stanford University neuroscientist, discusses the perception of time. According to Huberman, our sense of time and how quickly events unfold boils down to three neurotransmitters otherwise known as neuromodulators: norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin.

Norepinephrine and dopamine create the sense that time slows down. In a dramatic example, when you feel threatened, there is a sensation of slow motion.

I am reminded of when a German Shepherd bit my arm in college. It came out of nowhere and clamped down on my wrist. In the moment, I felt no pain. Just an intense reaction to somehow get my arm out of its jaws. In reality, it was probably only for a few seconds. However, it seemed like an eternity to me.

Time appeared to physically slow down and my amygdala instantly ordered a fight, flight, freeze response.

(Check out my podcast episodes for more information on the amygdala:

My mind hyper focused on every detail of the attack. The dog’s eyes and the way it shook my wrist from side to side. Even though this happened a long time ago, I can still feel its tight grip as I type. My brain registered that moment and marked the sight and sound of an unfamiliar German Shepherd as danger.

In fact, my brain was literally playing the event in slow motion. Norepinephrine and dopamine caused my mind to process it with more acuity. Andrew Huberman compares this phenomenon to a camera’s frame rate. For slow motion to occur, it is accomplished through a higher rate. It takes into account more details of the moment, just like the brain does.

By comparison, when serotonin is elevated in the brain, the frame rate becomes slower and in essence the perception of time speeds up. Interestingly, our levels of dopamine and norepinephrine are more elevated in the morning compared to the evening. So this is slow motion versus quicker passage happens on a smaller scale every day.

Andrew Huberman also points out novelty in the perception of time. On a vacation or new place, time seems to slip by so quickly. However, when we look back on the trip, we can then sense time was longer than it was actually perceived in the moment. By comparison, during a dull event, time appears to move slow. However, when looking back, it is often perceived as faster moving.

With all this in mind, I will now go and plan out my summer. In an attempt to capture elusive time. Just for a moment. The best I can, before another blink occurs.

Time Perception & Entrainment By Dopamine, Serotonin, & Hormones. Huberman Lab.

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