Emotions play a powerful role in distorting our time perception. They dictate our
experienced speed of time. Negative emotions such as fear, anger, anxiety, and sadness appear to slow down the passage of time so that we feel we must endure these feelings for longer than we actually do, making the negative experience even worse.
‘Our emotions dictate the experienced speed of time’
Emotions can last anywhere from a couple of seconds for up to several hours, whereas moods last relatively long but are not as intense. Sadness is considered the longest-lasting emotion. Emotions can be broadly classified into 4 main groups:
- High intensity and unpleasant, such as fear, anger, and anxiety
- High intensity and pleasant, such as love, passion, and awe
- Low intensity and unpleasant, such as shame, guilt, sadness, and disgust
- Low intensity but pleasant, such as satisfaction, pride, and hope
Since emotions tend to draw our attention to ourselves when we are experiencing an emotional moment, we become more aware of our own body, which simulates the insular cortex and our perception is that time slows down. In contrast, when we are absorbed with an activity, like watching an action movie or reading an interesting book that distracts us from our own self, time seems to fly. Attention to time such as in waiting or boring situations draws awareness to our own self causing the time to drag. The greater our self-awareness, such as when we are sad or anxious, the slower time passes and vice versa.
For more on that check out my book “The Power of Time Perception” to learn more about the factors that affect the speed of time in your mind.