When time is short, you savor it.
All good things must come to an end, and dwelling on that fact will just spoil the fun, right? Wrong. Research published in Psychological Science reveals that you savor a temporary experience more when you remind yourself of its imminent conclusion.
Matthew Hutson is a freelance writer for Science. He covers artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, cybersecurity, and the Internet of Things. He has a bachelor’s degree in cognitive neuroscience from Brown University and a master’s degree in science writing from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his thesis explored AI and creativity.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
Six weeks before graduation, researcher Jaime Kurtz of Pomona College asked University of Virginia seniors to spend two weeks writing about their college experience and what they felt grateful for. Half were reminded "how little time" they had left there, and half "how much time." At several points the students also reported whether they had engaged in various activities that day, such as spending time with friends, participating in clubs, or taking scenic routes to class. At the end of the fortnight, they rated their well-being.
The results were clear: Those who framed their final six weeks as but a blink took greater advantage of the school's opportunities and, perhaps because of the increased social engagement, they were happier. So how does pondering the unrelenting passage of time help you live in the moment? Reminding yourself that all things must end is indeed a future-oriented thought process, Kurtz says, "but when you come back into the present, you come back with an enhanced sense of appreciation."