How time perception impacts your health?

Time Perception

Have you ever long for the days gone by when things were simpler or look forward to a time when everything will be better?

Do you constantly plan for the future or believe right now is all that matters? 

In “where’s your head at” discover how your perception of time impacts your health and how you can use the past, present and future for your personal gain.

Time is a limited resource

Every action, every choice, every thought, comes at a time cost that once spent, can never be refunded. 

Here’s your Option  (1);

An hour of Netflix Option or  a walk in the park

And lastly, Option (2) ;

Think about the argument with a loved one for the 15th time                        call them up and talk to them ….choices, choices, choices…

Today we explore time

We discover how our choices impact us both mentally and physically and how we can get the most out of this limited resource that is available to us all.

Why time matters…

In 1977 several university students were preparing to give a speech on the “Good Samaritan.” You know the story about an elderly man? 

He was in need of help on the side of the road but everyone kept walking past pretending they did not see him.

Except for the Samaritan, a supposed enemy of the state.

2000 years later…

Students were told one of two things just before each was about to walk across campus to deliver the motivating speech on helping others.


Either, they had plenty of time to get to the venue or times had changed and needed to hurry.

On route to the presentation slumped over gasping for air they all met a fellow student in need, of course, they would all want to help this student and practice what they were soon to preach?

Well no!

A total of 90% of  students running late walked on by whilst those with time to spare almost all stopped to see if he was alright.

A culture of time

Another study researchers looked at whether the phenomenon of time at an individual level would reflect that in communities through comparing “helpfulness” to “pace of life”, after the Samaritan, 20 years later.

36 cities in the US were ranked on how busy they were based

  • On walking speed
  • Banking speed
  • Talking speed
  • And the frequency of wearing watches

Replicating the individual findings, the busiest cities were found to be consistently least helpful.

i.e

  • Less likely to return a pen
  • Pick up a dropped coin
  • Donate to charity
  • Mail a lost letter

In short…how we view our time impacts our actions which impacts our health

Individual differences

We all view time differently.

Some plan tirelessly for tomorrow.

Others dwell on the past.

And others seem so laid back it frustrates the hell out of those planning for tomorrow.

 Mostly we all  tend to favor one way of viewing time, but will jump between perspectives throughout our day.

You may need to plan finances for the year ahead, but at lunchtime what you are eating becomes more clear and present.


There is no right or wrong way of viewing time but evidence points towards a healthy balanced approach with too long focused on one perspective having potential negative implications. 

Time perspectivesThe Past

In the fantastic book by Zimbardo and Boyd,

(The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life)

They suggest 6 main groups of people based on there ZTIP scale (online test).

Past positive. – “Every day is a school day”

You see your past through rose-tinted spectacles.

Therefore, even those embarrassing moments now appear to be wonderful opportunities where you grew and learned.

Your ability to let go of past hang-ups. It means your only regrets are the things you never did.

Past negative. –

“everything was so much better when you were at school/uni/college/X”

Those  history you see as  littered with mistakes, screw-ups and failures. You are obsessed over errors you made.

You struggle to let them go dwelling on how things could have been or should have been.

Life was easier before X happened.

The Present.

Present Hedonism – “YOLO! Where the party at?”

You work to live, earning money to spend it, knowing you can’t take it with you when you die.

You want to enjoy every day as if it’s your last so tend not to plan much relying on what feels right, right now. 

Present fatalism “What’s the point, it probably won’t work anyway”

You feel you have no control over your life.

It’s already mapped out on a treadmill set on full throttle. What’s the point of eating well and exercising…we’re all gonna die anyway.

The Future.

Future planners – “If I work hard now I can be in my new role in 7 months time”

You know where there next 7 meals are coming from.

What’s happening a month on Tuesday. 

How your work, social life and exercise plan fits into your 5-year life plan.

To begin with, you are amazed how the present hedonists survive in life getting frustrated that other people don’t prepare!

As a result, you don’t smoke, you floss, you eat healthy as you know the benefits will pay off.

You also get anxious as things can get a little too much at times as the future keeps coming.

Future transcendent – “Everything will be better tomorrow,next week or next year”

As well as, you know that a better day is coming.

A magic unicorn will slide down a rainbow with your winning lottery ticket and everything will be just right.

The phrases:

“when X happens I will” or “I can’t until Y” are used regularly.

(This is more common than people think!)

How Time perspective can impact your health

 “Alcohol Myopia” is the narrowing of attention to the present moment through alcohol.

For instance, you know that feeling when your drinking buddy becomes your “best friend ever” or the ketchup on your 3.00 am chips just ruins your night.

Drinking for futures may take their mind off their worries. Its hard to stress about tomorrow when your focus is on the now.

Futures see this myopia as a temporary respite.

Presents find drinking intensifies their current moment thinking, creating a heightened emotional sense leading to potentially more drink – a potentially vicious cycle.

Being in the moment can be a wonderful place to be but in excess, it can rob you of your future through failing to plan ahead or learn from your past. 

The futures don’t have it all going for them though.

Yes, futures have developed more adaptive mechanisms to plan, perceive control and cope.

But futures can become overwhelmed and anxious when they do not feel in control.

Time pessimism, whether past negative, present fatalism or future anxiousness creates stress.

When we focus on all the possible bad things that could happen or did happen we become victims of fate… what’s the point in trying?

There’s more….

  1. Past positives tend to be happier, healthier and successful than their past negative partners.
  2. Present hedonism tends to be a youthful phase in our life but some never let it go.
  • Teenagers who take hedonism into adulthood allow emotions to rule over reason…which is why knowledge on its own is no use, emotions and feelings tend to win through…
  • Thrill beats will! Are most likely to miss deadlines and under perform at school and work.
  • And most likely to partake in drugs, alcohol and risky sex, but also most likely to help someone in  need

     3. Present fatalists tend to be less adaptive, lacking coping skills and                 easily anger or withdraw.

4. Future planners outscore everyone at school and university.

  • exercise the most, eat well and floss
  • but are prone to stress.


The bright side….

Luckily, time perception is a learned skill in which we are able to change our approach and perception.

Below, I list a number of actions that you can take to manage stress, anxiety and develop resilience to adversity.

Managing Stress.

Being Positive-Focus on whats good.

In comparison to past positive, present hedonist and future-hopeful views of time have shown to lower stress.

Above all, by concentrating on all the good in our lives that has happened, is happening and may happen we become more resilient and optimistic.

Past – Focus on our achievements

When we thought on our previous accomplishments and our previous lessons learned (No matter how small)

Also, we re-frame our past positively and have more control over our present.

Plan – To increase control.

Whenever, we feel like we have no control, stress and anxiety increases.

Through planning (without over planning …or striving for perfection) we increase our control of a given situation and our destiny.

Pro-actively – Take control.

For example, think of  what can be done right now or in the future lowers our stress through developing control.

Next, take action immediately or set a timeline for action.

Lastly, clear expectations and a clear plan of action can reduce stress.

Presently – Take action.

In the mean time, focus on the right here and right now we can take control of our lives through actions.

Besides, we all have 5 minutes we can use to take positive actions. All actions only take place in the right now.

So then, through controlling our right now, we control our future and can narrate our past.

If you want to know more, I strongly recommend you read ;

The Time Paradox: “The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life Atria Books”


-Zimbardo, Philip; Boyd, John.

Kindle Edition.

Why Habitual?

Habitual has been created to help you achieve personal health goals without turning your life upside down.

We don’t offer short-term quick fixes, as they simply do not work.

Instead, we deal with long-lasting Habit development building upon existing schedules and routines. Here in Habitual we offers affordable individual support in getting your health back on track through;

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Chris & Melissa

Your Habitual Coaching Team

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