How has the pandemic affected our perception of time?

The perception of time contracting and dilating depends on a lot of factors.

Scientific bibliographies from the last centuries has shown how mood and routine can influence our sense of time. For example, our perception of time passing is extremely different if we are doing boring work tasks or enjoying our holidays. In the former, time is seen as very slow, while in the latter, situation time seems to contract.

What can explain this all?

The brain has an important role in controlling both how our internal clock works and how the body responds accordingly. However, time must first be placed within a context. Circadian rhythms, emotions and mood related to situations help the brain to set up a memory of events, although with the presence of some flexibility. 

In winter, for instance, we are usually less exposed to sunlight and human interaction. The memory of events, therefore, get distorted and explains why we feel more tired or appearing to have less energy. 

But what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic? Why did most of us start perceiving that time was running so slowly?

Everyone distorts time and perceptions temporarily. Mental disorders, drug consumption, as well as daily actions such as drinking coffee, working, and doing sports may influence our brain. These all have effects on our emotions and mood. 

During the health crisis, everyday seemed the same. Interactions–which are central for humans–were no longer as prevalent as before the pandemic. Furthermore, bad news, anxiety and a widespead sense of not knowing when this entire way of living would end impacted our memory, distorting time. 

Again, as time perception has to do with the memory of events, based on mood, anxiety took over.

The pandemic, like any other negative event, has taught us that our lives comprise more than mere hours of work and Zoom meetings. Trying to live everyday to the fullest without overestimating the commitment we must give to our job and routine could be the start of a beautiful journey.

In Virtualtimes, we are analyzing and studying the sense and structure of time by generating a flow state with the use of VR gaming. The experience of time can be distorted due to certain psychopathological conditions. Funded by the European Union, this project aims to provide individuals with opportunities to re-experience and normalize a variant and distorted sense of time.

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