The phenomenon that causes us to lose track of time may help explain why we can't remember what day it is.
Keeping track of what day of the week it is has been a bit of a challenge over the last few weeks, and at times, it's become less and less of priority.
Temporal disintegration is the phenomenon in which individuals are unable to organize and retain information relating to the passage of time. People lose the understanding of sequential order; what happened today, yesterday, or a month ago? It all melds together. While this phenomenon is not new, it's getting a lot more attention right now as the spread of the COVID-19 virus has caused people to stay at home and refrain from normal activities.
The idea of temporal disintegration originated in the 1970s in the work of Dr. Frederick Melges (1935-1988), a researcher at Stanford School of Medicine. He led research into the effects of smoking cannabis and its effects on the human brain. He was the first researcher to suggest that it induced disorganization of sequential thought, causing an individual to lose his/her sense of time. Further research has found that this phenomenon affects many people after they have suffered a traumatic experience, extreme stress, a drastic life event, and those who suffer from mental conditions such as PTSD, depersonalization disorder, and depression, among others.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are feeling displaced, unsure, and anxious as we all deal with the sudden and unexpected changes in our lives. Being isolated from other people; keeping a physical distance, even when we are with others; a disrupted sense of belonging; and the uncertainty of what will come has greatly affected the collective mental health of society. For many, long days at home have not been relaxing, and time can feel like it's dragging on.
USA Today spoke with Dr. Ruth Ogden, a researcher from England’s Liverpool John Moores University, who explained that this feeling of timelessness can come from all of the aforementioned conditions and that our emotions are tied to our activities, which affects how we perceive what time it is.
"This is because our sense of time is governed in part by the emotions that we experience and the actions we perform," Ogden said.
Steve Joordens, a psychology professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Toronto, told CTV News explained that the daily rituals we go through, even just getting up to have a cup of coffee, give us a sense of where we are in relation to time.
“They are kind of like a rhythm to our lives. They tell us where we are within a given day, you know if it's lunchtime, but also within the given week, you know if it's Thursday or Friday, they feel very different than a Monday or Tuesday do. They also lose sense of who they are,” he said. “This is what a lot of people kind of feel too, is that they feel a little adrift. They’re not really sure what they're supposed to be doing and they have this sort of vague, uneasy feeling.”
Create a new schedule and daily rituals to keep up during the coronavirus pandemic, and you may find yourself feeling a little more in sync with what day and time it is. You can also spend time learning a new skill or brushing up on an old one, or finding a way to give back to the community and help a few neighbors out.
If you need some ideas for an exercise routine, check out these:
We also have some tips for how to help cope with the mental toll the pandemic can have:
Have you been having trouble keeping track of what day it is? Has this been positive or negative? We want to hear all about it in the comments.