How does the time fly! The QuaranTIME effect, i.e. why during a pandemic it seems that time is passing differently than it used to be

Many of us probably have similar feelings about the passage of time during a pandemic. On the one hand, the days interminable, on the other hand, when we realize that we are approaching the end of June, we have the impression that the last months and weeks have passed at a dizzying pace. This paradox is a perfect example of how the mind works and what time and its passage means.

Our brain can not cope with the concept of the passage of time, like not at ALL.  There are no clocks in the human brain, and as studies show (French, Addyman, Mareschal & Thomas, 2014) , we estimate the passage of time-based on how “fresh” our memories of a specific event in the past are. The weaker they are, the further the point when they happened.  Honestly, it is not a particularly sophisticated mechanism, and it is vulnerable to many aberrations that distort our perception of reality.

This is what happens during a pandemic, when our reality has changed a lot compared to the past. The passage of time, and whether everything is happening quickly or slowly, is the result of how many “events” occur in a specific time. During the day, often not much happens (and indeed, less happens than before). There is no shortage of work, but if we are sitting at home instead of in the office, there is a lack of, e.g. meetings, gossip on coffee breaks and cigarettes breaks, visits and a return visit. A smaller number of such “events” conveys the boredom and monotony, and in turn, the feeling that time is passing slowly. Subsequent days of this type turn into weeks and months devoid of “events”, which from the perspective of our mind turn into an overwhelming sense of galloping time. And finally, in the unpleasant feeling of wasted spring, when we realize that many memories that are still alive in us are events from before the pandemic, which translates into a sense of time passing at a sickening pace. It is just that simple, isn’t it?

Can we do something about it? Of course. First of all, the change of the scenery- our brain likes spending time in different places. It can be a change from one room to another or to the terrace, or …  trips. Even the virtual ones. Secondly, do not give up gossip, pointless meetings and mindless chit-chats, or small variations during your day, primarily if instead of at the office you work at home. Thirdly, strive to boost your personal development and learn something new every day. Even if “something new” would be just perusing Wikipedia.