4 science-backed ways to make the school holidays last longer

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Ahh, school holidays. That refreshing time of year that never seems to last long enough. If you feel like your holidays are skating by, here are 4 science-backed ways to make time go slower.

1. Do something new for the first time

Have you ever wondered why a road trip seems to drag on forever on the way to your exciting and unfamiliar destination but feels much faster on the way back? There’s a scientific reason behind the change in your perception of time.

When you’re put in an unfamiliar situation, like a road trip route you’ve never taken before, it takes longer for the brain to process this new information. This increased level of awareness translates to a more detailed memory and makes it feel like time has moved slower.

You can take advantage of this little time-perception loophole by challenging your brain with all new experiences. Swap your on-repeat video games with a trip to a park you’ve never been to before, or try something new like rock climbing or visiting an indoor trampoline park.


2. Get a good night’s sleep

While it may seem like staying up ‘til the early hours of the morning is key to lengthening your holidays, it might be making your holidays even shorter! This is because time appears to pass slower when your brain and eyes are super focused on taking in new details.

If you’re tired, your brain is struggling to process the visual information received by your eyes and register these new details in your memory – meaning time seems to pass by faster because you’re not really living in the moment. So, put Netflix on hold while you try to get a good night’s sleep and reap the rewards tomorrow!


3. Do something exhilarating

We’ve all heard the saying, ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’ but what happens to your time perception when you’re stressed or scared? Stress and fear are vital emotions for survival – especially in the animal kingdom. They can trigger your fight or flight response and send adrenaline coursing through your body to give you the energy to face your fears or run for the hills. This reaction can also produce a thing called ‘time dilation’, where you’re so focused on the thing that scares you that time seems to move slower.

As humans, we don’t have much need for the fight or flight response in our everyday lives. But we can trigger this time-slowing reaction by engaging in some exhilarating activities; whether that’s skydiving, or just watching a scary movie that puts you on the edge of your seat.


4. Make some awesome memories

There’s a little thing called the ‘Holiday Paradox’ in psychology, a term coined by psychologist and writer Claire Hammond in her book “Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception.” When you’re on holiday having a blast, time will fly by… but your perception of the holiday will seem to be longer since your brain is storing many more memories than it normally would for any other mundane event.

The takeaway? Time may move faster while you’re on holiday, but you might be making some of the greatest memories of your life. Whether you choose to hit pause or just enjoy it is up to you!

Eliza Brockwell

Author: Eliza Brockwell

Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.


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